The sea changers who could determine who rules
Torn between prosperity stemming from strong property gains and worries about environmental damage to the fragile sandy isthmus that gives the region its beauty, the electorate is now one of Australia’s most contested.
Corangamite is essential for the coalition to retain power. Scott Morrison visited twice, laden with money for community facilities. He played pool with Asher in front of the national media on Monday during his last visit.
Both major parties are rolling out hundreds of millions of dollars in spending pledges to win over undecided voters, but the big question is how the wave of newly arrived voters will vote.
“People moved to Corangamite because they love the natural environment and want to be close to it,” says Coker.
“They walk on the beach, they walk in the bush, they walk beside their rivers.”
Shoppers and retailers at the new Armstrong Creek Town Center mall seem more interested in day-to-day issues – the biggest concern seems to be the long wait for newly installed traffic lights to turn green.
Asked about the prospect of mortgage increases, buyers were blissfully unaware of the debate among monetary authorities over when and how much interest rates.
Until COVID-19 closed the borders, much of Victoria’s growth came from immigration, especially from northern India. “We hope the migration from Punjab will start again,” says Keerthi Reddy, owner of Guru’s Indian Groceries and Sweets.
His store is stocked with Indian goodies for the more than 2,500 people of Indian descent currently in the area, a key group of voters if the election turns out to be another close result.
There are plenty of children in buggies in the mall, suggesting Labor’s commitment to cutting childcare costs could be an attractive carrot.
Despite the lack of awareness of rising interest rates, housing affordability and rent shortages are definitely front and center.
“We only have one rental available,” says Georgia Hynds, an RT Edgar Point Lonsdale estate agent.
Point Lonsdale looks across the windswept strait from Port Phillip to Portsea, and homes sell for over $5 million, a reminder of the ‘old money’ that long ago established popular shoreline vacation homes.
Investors are making huge money on Airbnb, crowding out traditional tenants, and rent shortages are acute across the peninsula and coast. This in turn leads to staff shortages, especially for coastal cafes and restaurants. Everywhere there are signs for baristas, cooks and reception staff.
The increased demand for housing is putting enormous pressure on municipalities to open up land around the small coastal towns that are now so sought after.
But residents want development to stay within the boundaries, says Colin Bridges of the Barwon Heads Association, a local group fighting to stop urban development west of the city.
“These are distinctive towns and people want to keep their character,” Bridges says.
Barwon Heads was one of the towns where the iconic ABC television series change of the sea was filmed in the 1990s and still retains its rustic surf vibe.
The soft calcite cliffs that stretch the length of the Great Ocean Road are literally collapsing, making climate change a very real issue, especially for the local surfing community and an industry that is a powerful constituency in the region. . The area hosts one of the most famous surfing tournaments in the world at Bells Beach.
Unlike the east coast, the region has so far enjoyed a stellar summer and fall of blue skies and placidly warm oceans. This suggests that the angst that has been palpable in flood-hit areas of northern New South Wales and Queensland will not be an election factor.
Paradoxically, the Mediterranean-type climate was not to everyone’s satisfaction.
“Surfing has always been bad,” laments Ross Harrison, owner of Rasta Surf shop in Barwon Heads.
For over 30 years, “Rasta Ross” has been publishing a must-have daily wave report for surf-mad locals and is considered “a local legend and guru”.
Asked about his verdict for the next poll, Harrison said “times are good. People feel dynamic and go on with their lives.”
It could mean Coker is hanging on. The betting markets certainly think so, with Labor at $1.28 for a win and Asher at $3.65. On the other hand, prosperity generally helps incumbent governments.