Is the Peninsula another Paradise Lost?
The latest ABS data, based on the 2021 Census, was released last week.
It contains a detailed, suburb by suburb, picture of advantage and disadvantage across Australia.
Disadvantage is measure by the Socio-economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) score and reflects income levels, education levels and housing costs across the country.
The Central Coast overall is a disadvantaged area with a SEIFA index of 994 and with 61 per cent of areas in Australia having a higher index.
But the Peninsula is even more disadvantaged with 76 per cent of areas having a higher index.
This is about the same level as the Entrance and the Northern Lakes districts to the north.
These indices are reflected in median household income levels with the median household income for the Peninsula standing at $1300 per week compared to $1534 for the Coast as a whole and $1849 for the whole of NSW.
Within the Peninsula, however, there is some divergence. It's like a mosaic.
Median weekly househiold income levels vary from $1466 in Umina to $1129 in Ettalong and $1115 in Woy Woy.
But Patonga, Pearl Beach, Booker Bay, Umina Heights and the Esplanade income levels are far higher at over $2500 per week.
It's like a doughnut.
The rim of the Peninsula are far more advantaged and compares with Teririgal, Avoca and Holgate while the centre is disadvantaged and compares with Toukley, San Remo, Budgewoi and Gorokan to the north.
There is a big gulf between a few "haves" (about 20 per cent) and a majority of "have nots" (about 80 per cent).
Because of this it is economically inert.
It's almost a subsistence economy where, for most, housing and food costs eat up most of the household income.
What's left seems to go on big brekkies and the pokies, with the Peninsula having the same number of poker machines as the other NSW hotspot, Fairfield.
No wonder the high streets are dead after 3pm.
No wonder, when I come back from overseas, my first question is now "What's closed?" rather than "What's changed?"
The Peninsula needs three things.
1. Massive business investment - not just more retail and real estate - to stimulate the economy and generate more jobs.
2. More affordable housing - the median income levels and median house price are way out of whack and drain money from the local economy.
3. An identity - in a divided community, there is no common ground beyond the beach and that is generic to every coastal town in the world.
Why would I go into the centre of Umina or Ettalong or Woy Woy except to go to Coles or Woolies or IGA or Bunnings or the doctor's or the chemist or whatever?
If the Peninsula is to become such a dormitory suburb, so be it.
But this has big implications for the development of the Peninsula.
When it is the closest bit of the Central Coast to Sydney, this all seems like a missed opportunity.
With open water on three sides and a National Park on the other, is this just another Paradise Lost?
Email, 14 May 2023
David Keig, Umina