Bondi Beach property prices destroy the dream of Australian egalitarianism

It’s hard to flaunt your wealth in a bikini or a pair of parakeet smugglers, but Bondi Beach is an unlikely socialist paradise.

the half price for a two-bedroom apartment in 2022 is $1.57 million, while a three-bedroom house costs $3.7 million. Median rental prices are just as impressive: $780 a week for a two-bedroom home and $1,450 for a single family home.

However, prevailing wisdom still says that class barriers have disappeared on Australia’s most famous stretch of sand.

Tensions are rising from the beach.

Tensions are rising from the beach.Credit:Flavio Brancalone

“Everyone is the same on the beach,” says restaurateur Maurice Terzini, whose Icebergs Dining and Bar, located on the southern tip of Bondi Beach, has long been an icon on the Sydney dining scene. “We have this beautiful public space and what it offers is open to everyone.”

that includes billionaire James Packer, whose 2014 street fight with former Nine CEO David Gyngell made international headlines.

Bondi’s tabloid reputation was also cemented in 2006 when hotel heiress and reality star Paris Hilton received the red carpet treatment from former Waverley Mayor George Newhouse, who sprouted:: “I have to say that Paris is welcome in Bondi at any time”.

It’s no wonder that Waverley’s current mayor, Paula Masselos, insists that Bondi Beach is an equal place. “Half the time you wouldn’t know someone is a judge, a construction worker, or a tourist until you start a conversation,” she says. “That is what makes our beach very special and that is something that I jealously guard.”

Bondi rolled out the red carpet for Paris Hilton in 2006.

Bondi rolled out the red carpet for Paris Hilton in 2006.Credit:steve moon

Masselos’ opinion echoes a piece of graffiti once scrawled on the boardwalk near the Bondi Surf Life Saving Club: “The rich come here to escape and the poor come here to dream.”

Billionaires, bricklayers, and backpackers may be happy to share the sand and surf. But a turf war rages in the streets behind the beach where residents fear Bondi Beach will be “smothered to death” by developers trying to pack too many people into the suburb.

Waverley Mayor Paula Masselos wants to protect the egalitarian character of Bondi Beach.

Waverley Mayor Paula Masselos wants to protect the egalitarian character of Bondi Beach.Credit:james alcock

Multi-million dollar apartments and the conversion of homes to Airbnb-type rentals add to concerns that Bondi Beach will become an enclave for the wealthy.

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Bondi Beach Precinct co-coordinator Lenore Kulakauskas says the suburb has become a “constant construction zone.”

“We’ve all experienced vibrations in our buildings and suspicious new hairline cracks in our older buildings located blocks from multiple construction sites,” she says. “The noise is constant, the disruption to foot traffic is constant.”

Kulakauskas says there were very few neighborhood stores left and “everything sold here has become more expensive.”

“The colorful jumble of buildings is being replaced by dull gray McApartments,” he said.

Bondi has become a

Bondi has become a “constant construction zone,” says Lenore Kulakauskas, co-coordinator of the Bondi Beach Precinct.Credit:edwin pickles

Terzini worries that Bondi Beach has lost some of its youth and vibrancy as high property prices make the suburb unaffordable for some people.

“Twenty years ago, there was a house party every night,” he says. “You literally got off work and there were parties everywhere. Now at 10 p.m. he is dead.”

Masselos says developers push projects that ignore local planning rules and build buildings that create wind tunnels, congestion and upstage neighbors, robbing them of privacy.

“Worse than that, often what is built is not what people want and it is not affordable,” she says. “I’ve heard of a one-bedroom apartment in this area going for $2 million. How is that affordable?

The head of the Urban Taskforce developer lobby group, Tom Forrest, says the quality of housing in Bondi Beach is in “desperate need of renovation.”

“Foreign visitors are in awe of the magnificent beach, but the suburb itself hasn’t outgrown the backpacker fraternity environment it developed in the 1970s,” he says.

A developer lobby group says the development funds actual improvements to Bondi.

A developer lobby group says the development funds actual improvements to Bondi.Credit:edwin pickles

Forrest said the vast majority of utility improvements in the last 15 years were funded by developers’ taxes: “The only parts of Bondi Beach with smooth trails are those that have been replaced or fixed by developers.”

Forrest says the council spent too much time navel-gazing and funding staff to oppose development instead of improving the suburb.

“Instead of just keeping Bondi in jelly, the Mayor of Waverley should consider how the development could fund some real improvements for the Bondi Beach community,” he says.

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Bondi Born swimwear brand founder Dale McCarthy says the world’s best cities protect their beauty, character and livability through long-term planning.

“It can’t just be about the greed of the developers and the short-term revenue needs of the council,” he says. “I am concerned that Waverley City Council, which was responsible for Bondi Junction, will also be responsible for the future of Bondi’s town planning.”


Similar tensions can be found over property development in Sydney, but few suburbs also face the crush of Bondi Beach visitors.

And nowhere else in Sydney put up a fight against traffic jams and overcrowded buses instead of a train line that could make it all too easy for residents of Western Sydney to enjoy a day at the beach.

However, tourists are the backbone of the local economy. Without them, businesses have struggled to make money and find staff, especially in the cafes and restaurants that are an integral part of the Bondi experience, says the president of the Bondi and Districts Chamber of Commerce, Emmanuel Constantiou.

But hope is high for a hot, vaccine-filled summer after years of wildfires, COVID-19 and humid weather. The reopening of the Bondi Pavilion and Icebergs Dining and Bar also promises to bring visitors back.

Bondi Beach remains popular as the backdrop for events such as Sculpture by the Sea and City2Surf, as well as a beach party for World Pride.

Maurice Terzini, whose Icebergs restaurant is a Bondi institution, fears the suburb has lost some of its vibrancy.

Maurice Terzini, whose Icebergs restaurant is a Bondi institution, fears the suburb has lost some of its vibrancy.Credit:jamie barrett

However, facts like White dinner “posh picnic”scheduled for November 12 on the beach, and the proposal for a private beach club on the sand have divided opinions, with some neighbors concerned about the commercialization of public space.

Kulakauskas says the residents’ group had asked the council to encourage visitors to go to the other beaches and hold events in other areas such as Bondi Junction, Bronte and Tamarama.


“We’re also not interested in the council trying to make more and more things happen here, particularly in winter, as it’s nice to have some quiet time,” she says.

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Despite concerns about parking and traffic congestion, Kulakauskas says the buses were sufficient and “we don’t really see the train to the beach as feasible.”

“We’ve always had hordes of beachgoers and we take it as usual,” she says. “We have the luxury of choosing our swim times to avoid the busiest parts of the day.

“Our main fear is that developers try to cram so many people into this small area that it won’t be overrun by visitors, but will be smothered to death by residents, their cars, the extra trash, not to mention the strain this will put on an aging infrastructure.

Kulakauskas’ bleak vision of the future is at odds with the Bondi brand, which sells an idyllic take on Australian life through swimwear, tanning products, beer and reality TV.

McCarthy says the beach suburb offers “a lifestyle that everyone wants.”

“Anyone who wants to live their best life is drawn there and its laid-back style invites you to be whoever you want to be,” she says.

Local historian Lawrie Williams says that the demographics and attitudes of Bondi Beach have changed dramatically since he joined the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club as a teenager in 1971.

Back then, it was a working-class suburb whose residents knew which pubs to avoid and when to close their windows to get rid of the stench of Sydney sewage discharging straight into the ocean.

Bondi was much more working class in the 1970s.

Bondi was much more working class in the 1970s.

“Developers have always been drawn to Bondi Beach,” he says. “That dates back to the extension of the tram line to the beach in 1894, thus providing an efficient public transport system connecting Bondi to the city and beyond.”

However, Williams says the suburb maintains a “great sense of community” through local volunteer and sports groups, such as the surf lifeguard and the Bondi Icebergs Winter Swim Club.

“These clubs and organizations provide the glue that binds locals and others together to provide invaluable community service while giving people a sense of belonging and a sense that they are contributing to a greater cause,” he says.

Bondi Rescue's lifeguard, Anthony

Bondi Rescue’s lifeguard, Anthony “Harries” Carroll, enjoys surfing with beginners and laid-backs.Credit:louis kennerley

bondi rescue Life jacket Anthony “Harris” Carroll it also points to the community spirit embodied by the lifeguards on the beach and the weekly Fluro Friday sessions where surfers gather to raise awareness of mental health.

Carroll also hugs the flotilla of surfers hoping to catch the perfect wave.


“People don’t like surfing with beginners and crowds,” he says. “But I love it – you meet such a diverse range of people in surfing having the time of their lives.”

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