Macquarie Pier revival

IT saved numerous ships from sinking to the bottom of Stockton’s coast, assisted a booming coal industry and also created what we know as Nobbys Beach.

Yet many people might not realise that the Macquarie Pier was one of the Hunter’s most important pieces of infrastructure and one that helped the region thrive in its early beginnings.

Part of the original foundations lie about seven metres underground, while the remainder is more commonly known as Newcastle breakwall.

Now, after more than 195 years, the Coal River Working Party are trying to bring the pier back to life to highlight an important part of Newcastle’s history.

They are using ground penetrating radar investigations in order to find the exact location of Macquarie Pier and hopefully garner enough interest to restore the artefact and use it as a tourist attraction.

Chairman Gionni Di Gravio said the investigation had been a long time coming since a preliminary search in 2010 proved inconclusive.

‘‘This will give us an idea of what’s under the ground and if we can confirm its existence then further down the track hopefully we can get funding,’’ he said.

‘‘To excavate is beyond our scope really. That would cost around $100,000 to $200,000.’’

Construction on Macquarie Pier began on August 5, 1818, when Governor Lachlan Macquarie laid the foundation stone at 4pm.

Commandant Captain James Wallis named it Macquarie Pier in his honour.

The causeway was proposed in order to connect Coal Island with the mainland, creating a safer passageway for ships coming into Newcastle Harbour that would often get caught on Stockton’s oyster banks.

Work wasn’t completed until 1846 due to Governor Macquarie heading back to England and in 1866 the pier was reinforced using stone quarried at Waratah.

Mr Di Gravio said the area is ‘‘Newcastle’s birthplace’’ and already home to tourist attractions such as Fort Scratchley.

‘‘It would just be fantastic to bring it back to life,’’ he said.

‘‘If we want to turn the place into a major tourist attraction then we should preserve it and use it to showcase our city.

‘‘People need to take account of the city’s heritage and what it means to them.’’

Geologist Russell Rigby has matched maps from James Meehan, 1818, and John Armstrong, 1830, with an aerial shot of Nobbys to estimate where the pier’s foundations started.

Geophysicists from GBG Australia will carry out the work starting on Tuesday thanks to a $10,000 grant from state government.

Mr Di Gravio said the Coal River Working Party were excited and hopeful the investigation would bring back strong evidence.

‘‘A lot of people might argue, ‘who cares?’ but we’ve got to rise above that argument,’’ he said.

‘‘This is the structure which made shipping safer, created Nobbys beach and made our city what it is today.

‘‘We wouldn’t be here today without it. We take it for granted and it’s a story worth telling.’’

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