Ben Astoni (2017-present)
Occupation: Builder; Pier Owner/Surf Shop Manager
Ben was first seen searching for his daughter Ziggy in the city, briefly encountering Brody. When Ziggy got home, Ben told her he’d told the police that she was with him at the time she’d allegedly stolen a car, but was frustrated to learn she was actually guilty, blaming her boyfriend Jarrod. His wife Maggie then came home with their younger daughter Coco, who had been suspended from school over a cyber-bullying incident. Realising the family was having troubles, Ben reluctantly agreed with Maggie’s suggestion that they go and visit her mother. He insisted on stopping in Summer Bay for a surf, only for the car to fail to start afterwards.
Alf got them a caravan for the night but then Ziggy got in trouble for stealing Kat’s wallet. Ben decided they needed to leave straightaway, despite Ash warning him that although he had got the car going the clutch was faulty, and Ben promptly reversed into a water tank. Alf agreed to let him fix it but it meant staying in Summer Bay a week. He clashed with both VJ and Justin while surfing and, unaware Justin was Ash’s partner, accused him of stealing his car when he saw him driving it. They quickly sorted out their differences but Justin managed to damage the tail light forcing them to stay another week. The family eventually agreed to stay there for the rest of the school holidays.
Maggie then suggested to him that he buy the pier and she get the principal’s job at Summer Bay High. They were successful but had trouble convincing the girls to go along with it, with Ziggy taking off for the city for a short time. Ben was initially in favour of Ziggy getting together with Brody until he saw Brody being arrested and learned he had been an ice addict, at which point he banned Ziggy from seeing him. He discovered Alf and Leah had attempted to buy the pier and they and Irene, who were now their tenants, weren’t happy with their plan to redevelop it. He attempted to make peace by buying Alf some expensive beer and learned that VJ, who he had a couple of run-ins with, was Leah’s son. When he came home and found a shirtless VJ with Coco, he literally threw him out of the house. He was convinced to apologise but was less than sincere. However, when Leah revealed Coco had pretended to be older in order to date VJ, Ben made a proper apology and promised to share plans for the redevelopment with the tenants. However, he continued making plans for a shop and restaurant which Maggie asked him to cancel to keep the peace. He ended up only agreeing to lose the restaurant.
When Ziggy stole his credit card rather than get a job, it reminded him how bad things had got with her. He tried to talk with Coco about her being bullied by Jennifer Dutton and was concerned when Ziggy began spending time with Brody again. He discovered that his redevelopment plans had been blocked by a bid to have the pier given listed heritage status and accused Alf only to discover it was Nick Dutton, in response to Maggie suspending Jennifer from school. However, when he saw Nick with Leah he accused her of being behind it. He threatened Brody into staying away from Ziggy when she was nearly killed by his dealer William Zannis and pushed him away when he tried to help Ziggy with a panic attack, resulting in him nearly coming to blows with Justin. Still bitter about the development, he ended up blaming Alf, Leah and even Maggie until they turned over part of the bait shop to him so he could open up a surf shop.
However, he still felt he wasn’t contributing enough to the family. He was cautiously supportive when VJ started teaching Coco to surf then learned she had fainted. However, when he and Maggie found a used condom wrapper, they assumed VJ and Coco were sleeping together. Maggie had to stop Ben confronting VJ and they interrogated Coco who denied it…at which point they realised it was Ziggy and Brody. An argument resulted in Ziggy storming out of the house. Despite her threatening to move out and a plea from Brody, Ben refused to accept them together, so Brody broke off the relationship and Ziggy returned home.
Ben gave Maggie the first surfboard he made and she later suffered a panic attack on being reminded of an incident when she had been attacked at school. Ben began building a gazebo at the farm, roping Ziggy and Coco into helping him as a bonding exercise. However, Coco collapsed and turned out to have bulimia, while Ziggy ran away from home. After unsuccesfully attempting to search for her, he decided they should concentrate on Coco. He then found Ziggy with Brody in a distressed state and punched him, only to learn he had actually saved her from a man who had spiked her drink. Ziggy admitted she had been involved in the attack on Maggie and Ben was taken in for questioning for assault. When he refused to take the matter seriously, he was thrown in a holding cell and, when it was revealed he had a record for assaulting his brother when he was eighteen after he cracked onto Maggie, charged with assault. He apologised to Brody but told him he still wanted him to stay away from Ziggy. He threw Mick Jennings out of the house when he came home to find him arguing with Maggie, Ziggy and Olivia and, at Coco’s request, read Ryder the riot act when he tried phoning her.
Then his mother-in-law Diana turned up and he was horrified to learn Maggie had borrowed the money to bail him out from her. Attempts to get rid of Diana quickly failed when Coco blurted out all their problems to her. Ben began making plans for his and Maggie’s 20th wedding anniversary but Diana bought the earrings he was planning to get and hijacked his plan for a candlelit dinner at Salt by insisting they have a family meal at home instead. Ben responded by blasting her and calling her a controlling old witch. He later made peace with her, pointing out she was wrong that he and Maggie wouldn’t last, and with her help he finally gave Maggie an anniversary surprise: The beach wedding they had wanted in the first place, where he presented her with the engagement ring he had planned to give her before Diana insisted on buying a more expensive one.
He was confused to find Coco getting dressed up to watch movies with Ryder but managed to assure her she looked fine, although he was less than happy about Brody acting as chaperone. At Coco’s glow day, Ben outbid Ziggy to have Brody as a partner for the obstacle course, only to end up getting on well with him. Realising Diana was trying to avoid the subject of leaving, he spoke to her and learned her ex-husband Richard was remarrying to a 27-year-old, prompting him to invitie her to stay a bit longer. He was soon palming her off on Maggie and Coco however and was horrified when she planned to move to Summer Bay. He was relieved when he simply had to buy Ziggy a new iPad as part of a plan to send her to stay with Maggie’s sister Kate in London instead.
He tolerated Brody coming round to cook a meal for the family but, trying to get the gazebo finished, he was stuck with him as an assistant and frustrated by his lack of handyman skills, but told him that if he got his life in order then he’d accept him with Ziggy. Brody tipped him off to the fact Jarrod was in town but he was pleased when Ziggy showed no interest in getting back with him. He advised Jarrod to leave town on discovering he had no money and was holding on to false hope for another chance with Ziggy. He was bemused that Coco had turned into an eco-warrior during a stay with Diana, but considered it harmless. He attended the reopening of Salt where he gave Brody and Ziggy his blessing.