The Eurobodalla Labor for Council team says it supports the Batemans Bay gym operators’ fears the new Bay Pavilions’ fees will send them broke.
Seven existing gymnasium, fitness centre and yoga studio operators have banded together against Eurobodalla Shire Council’s (ESC) proposed charges for the new 1000sq/m facility which they claim are based on a business plan that is out of touch with reality.
“It’s simply not fair,” said Onelife’s owner Tracy Innes, whose gym has successfully operated in Bateman’s Bay for more than a decade. “Clearly the proposed fees at up to 40 per cent below current market rates show it is being subsidised by ratepayers to the detriment of small business. It’s going to under-cut the market and put some operators out of business,” she said.
Mayoral candidate David Grace said today he believes the important issue of competitive neutrality – a level playing field for all businesses – has been overlooked in council’s pricing. He said where ESC competes in the marketplace with other private businesses, it must do so on the basis it does not exploit its ratepayer subsidised position to gain an unfair advantage.
“And that’s exactly what will happen when council opens the Pavilions and begins operating what will be the eighth fitness centre in Batemans Bay,” Mr Grace said. “ESC has a specific policy about this but has ignored it to the potential detriment of small businesses.”
Batemans Bay resident and Labor councillor candidate Maureen Searson, herself a keen swimmer and regular fitness class participant, has reached out to the Bay’s small businesses, and she has found they’ve welcomed Eurobodalla Labor for Council’s support.
- “Andrew and Elizabeth at North Street Studio fear the Pavilions’ pricing structure undercuts the market to their detriment and gives council an unfair advantage over other gyms,” Ms Searson said. “These operators were not contacted by the ESC or its consultants.
- “Clare Lovelace at Soul Tribe Studio teaches yoga, and she too was offered no consultation with the council. She is very unhappy.
- “Kate Turtiainen-Webber from Bay ActivePT told me she is not against competition, but she doesn’t support what the council is doing. The Batemans Bay gym operators co-exist with each other because they offer niche services.
- “Amanda Noble from Area 61 says many small business owners in Batemans Bay have been through enough and are still battling through the constant stress after the 2019-20 bushfires and the current Covid-19 lockdowns. When council representatives have told them they’ll ‘have to work longer and harder to be competitive’ when the new Pavilions gym opens, it’s like a slap in the face.
- “And Tracy Innes, who has been in the sector for a long time knows from past experience: the Pavilions new gym won’t grow the sector, it will simply steal existing fitness enthusiasts from the local small businesses,” Ms Searson added.
Professionally trained staff at Batemans Bay gyms and fitness centres already offer a range of services covering seniors fitness, rehabilitation, weight loss, teens, sports specific, general fitness, physical/mental health well-being, as well as wheel chair and disability programs.
Eurobodalla Labor for Council candidates believe the council, in partnership with local Batemans Bay businesses, needs to consider better utilisation of the 1000sq/m space in the new $69M Batemans Bay Pavilions, scheduled to open next year. If elected, they will call for a review of the plans, including a review of any contracts already signed.
“It seems on the surface there may not be a demonstrated need for another gym in Batemans Bay,” said Mr Grace “and that the space could be better used for example as a children’s soft play area, a mini-golf circuit and/or even a ‘flip-out’ or trampoline centre.
“That way it would cater for locals and tourists, be especially attractive as an indoor, safe and dry play area for families with children, and not be unfairly competing as a gym – something with which we are already well provided.
“Let’s be clear: Eurobodalla Labor for Council is committed to making this project work as well as it can, and that includes supporting the community, including small businesses. Making best use of the facilities provided by the new Pavilions is our priority because we want it to succeed, but not at the expense of existing small businesses.
“We’re calling on council to immediately convene a meeting with the existing seven small business operators to discuss how best to rectify this situation.
“We would expect nothing less given the proposed fees and charges – if applied – appear likely to send some of these businesses broke. It could destroy not only businesses, but people too,” Mr Grace added.
The closing date for submissions to ESC on its proposed fees and charges for the Batemans Bay Pavilions is 22 September.