With COVID and island businesses closing, many may well ask where do I get a good coffee? The real question, as singer songwriter Jack Johnsons asks is Where Did All The Good People Go? I would say a hell of a lot of them were at Benji’s at some stage or another over recent years and these include hospitality, schooling and accomodation workers, musicians, yoga enthusiasts, backpackers who’ve lived or stayed there. But now, yet another permanent island rental is taken off the market in favour of development.
Renovating is the other catch cry of recent months and “turning my permanent rental into a holiday letting”. Investment property owners on the island are moving to make this their primary place of residence since being locked out of the island during COVID. Our community is turning into one that has limited human resources to work the hospitality, accomodation and other island services that enable tourism. I recently waited two months for an electrician. Permanent rental accommodation options are an unforeseen casualty of these strange times. Economic imperative to pay off the mortgage, opportunism to proffer from the growth in tourism, coupled with lifestyle aspirations of many will be the undoing of us all.
The divide between visitors, new arrivals, holiday makers and local community will become ever wider if the glue that is the island workers are not looked after. I for one am making my spare bedroom available to those who have been given notice at the Bungalows, Pulan Pulan. I want to also pay tribute to Benji’s Place, which was Sunny’s old beach house and one of the original homes at Adder Rock next to the Road House at the Point. In recent years Benji and Josephine have played host to all and sundry who have come to the island to have a bed (or lounge to sleep on), share music, food and good vibes. These people have contributed to the island colour, culture and diversity. Never has the statement the door is always open ever been more true.
I too have have found a bed there in times of trouble. Credit goes to the property owners for accepting such unconventional tenants. But with local conscienceless Council approval for the demolition of what many would call a character dwelling, a 11 unit complex is approved to replace the existing fibro beach shack. Finding somewhere that serves a good coffee is small problem when community people are unable to find anywhere to live.