Newcastle is a distinctively beautiful coastal city that retains many elements of its built and natural heritage, despite some ugly developments foisted on it by successive state governments and developers. The Newcastle Greens want to ensure that our coastline retains as much as possible of its original beauty, public amenities and ecological values. We strongly support efforts the rehabilitation of the natural vegetation of the beaches and parks by professionals and volunteer organisations such as Coastcare and Landcare.
We need a revised coastal management plan, developed with the participation of the community, that protects and enhances the sensitive coastal flora and fauna of the beaches and their remnant landforms, preserves heritage places and guarantees access for the public to all services and attractions, and ensures access for people with limited mobility.
The most recently adopted 2010 Newcastle Coastal Revitalisation Strategy Master Plan Report, prepared for NSW Department of Land and Water Management, Newcastle City Council and Hunter Surf Life Saving falls very short of these principles. The report provides some detailed development plans for the Newcastle coastline from Stockton in the North to Merewether in the South. Important measures such as upgrading of pedestrian and cycle access to the coastline through the Bathers Way project are welcome and necessary.
Unfortunately, the 2010 strategy waters down almost all of the key recommendations of the earlier Newcastle Coastline Management Plan of 2003, adopted at a time when Newcastle City Council paid more serious attention to principles of ecological sustainability and consultation with the community. That study called for a masterplan for Newcastle’s coast based on “overriding principles” that would
- protect, rehabilitate and improve the natural environment;
- recognise and accommodate the natural processes;
- protect and conserve its cultural heritage;
- provide for ecologically sustainable development and use of its resources;
- provide for ecologically sustainable human settlement;
- provide for appropriate public access and use;
- provide information for its effective management; and
- provide for integrated planning and management
The new strategy should have built on these principles but sadly has discarded many. Unfortunately, the new approach has already resulted in the demolition of the beautiful old Merewether Surf House, a building of recognised significant heritage value that had been left to fall into a sad state of disrepair. It has now been replaced by an over-the-top new private development that dominates the entire southern end of Merewether beach. To add insult to injury, the Bathers Way project appears to include little access for people with limited mobility despite those requirements being included in the strategy’s guidelines.
It’s not too late to save King Edward Park
The old Bowling Club site on the northern headland of King Edward Park has council approval for yet another gross over-development from the same developer who gave us the new Merewether Surfhouse. The proposed construction at King Edward Park will be a private function centre that dominates the entire headland and robs the public of spectacular coastal views. Despite even the limited requirements to allow public access to the southern part of the site where the view is best, the developer has won the right to build a double storey structure that will allow only the patrons of the function centre access to that side.
The Newcastle Greens oppose alienation of public land for private commercial purposes. We don’t oppose kiosks, cafes and other small operations but we do oppose large function centres that by their nature exclude most of the public, block out views and restrict access. We support facilities for surf life-saving clubs, Coastcare groups, hang-gliders and skateboarders.
We are in favour of developments that are in keeping with the scale of the coastline and its beaches and don’t obstruct or obscure their natural beauty and allow access to all the public. We are in favour of the promotion of healthy community-building activities along the coast.
Therese Doyle. With thanks to Chris Brown for photography.