Anyone who tries to venture out during peak holiday season in the Shoalhaven knows it is likely to become quite an undertaking if not an ordeal. Our roads are choked, the beaches crowded, parking often hard to find – if not impossible.
Our popularity, which is a good thing, is putting incredible strain on our infrastructure, which is anything but a good thing.
We welcome visitors because we’re proud of where we live. We welcome them because we know they are an important mainstay of the local economy.
And, like Cr Bob Proudfoot, we recognise that popularity also comes with costs – to our roads, parks and playgrounds. This, in turn, puts enormous pressure on our local council, which is first in the firing line of criticism when its assets become worn out.
We’ve watched over the past couple of summers as council has had to impose restrictions and manage traffic at Hyams Beach, turning visitors away when the place is packed to the rafters. Attempts to point out the other glorious, and much less crowded, beaches in the region don’t seem to deter the hordes.
But Hyams Beach isn’t only place feeling the strain, which is beginning to affect businesses. We’ve been told of retail outlets that simply don’t deliver during the Christmas break because highway traffic is so thick.
While the long tailbacks in and out of Berry have now been eased by the Princes Highway upgrade, Nowra and Milton-Ulladulla regularly grind to a halt. When it gets so bad that businesses have to scale back their activities, we have a serious problem. It’s one of the reasons we have been running the FIX IT NOW campaign. Upgrading the highway south of Nowra is not just about road safety; it’s about ensuring our main artery flows healthily all year round.
Cr Proudfoot is dead right when he says our tourism overload is more than a council issue.
When we find ourselves outstripping the Gold Coast in terms of popularity, there is no way council can keep up with the depreciation of its assets. Its choice is stark: either let its assets crumble or hike rates even further, neither of which is an option.
As a region, we may be popular but we are not particularly wealthy. Picking up the tab for upkeep of tourism infrastructure after the tourists have returned home is becoming increasingly difficult.
So help from the state and federal governments would be most welcome.