THE futures of the Bogey Hole and the former bowling club site in King Edward Park will become clearer when the state government makes a funding announcement on Monday.
Lands and Water Minister Niall Blair’s visit to Newcastle coincides with a push by Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp to collect the 10,000 signatures needed to have the Bogey Hole debated in state parliament.
Mr Blair will make the announcement with the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald.
The Bogey Hole has been shut since November last year over safety concerns but Mr MaDonald defended the time the government had taken to finalise crucial geotechnical decisions.
The Newcastle Herald, Mr Crakanthorp and others have been pushing for the government to find a long-term solution for the Bogey Hole, which was given a safety upgrade in 2011-12 after a man hit his head on a submerged rock and died in an accident on Australia Day, 2010.
Political tempers flared last month after Mr MacDonald was quoted as saying he could not guarantee the Bogey Hole would re-open, leading Mr Crakanthorp to say it would shut “over my dead body”.
Mr Crakanthorp has also raised the King Edward Park site in parliament, saying Crown Lands had given him “the runaround”.
The former bowling club site that has sat fenced-off and untouched since a May 2015 Land and Environment Court decision halted plans for a function centre by developer Keith Stronach.
The former Labor state government struck a deal with Mr Stronach over the then-dilapidated bowling club site in 2009, when controversy was still raging over his now popular Merewether Surfhouse development.
Nearby residents opposed the King Edward Park project from the start, and took a case to the land and environment court after Newcastle City Council approved the function centre in late 2011.
Mediation between Mr Stronach and the Friends of King Edward Park lobby group failed in 2013 and a three-day court hearing followed in 2014.
In May 2015 the court ruled the council’s 2011 approval invalid, saying a function centre was not a permissable use of a Crown headland site that was intended for public recreation.
Also last year, the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council lodged a claim on the bowling club site under the NSW Land Rights Act, using the same process that gave the land council ownership of the former Newcastle post office.
Mr Crackanthorp said on Sunday that the club site was still fenced off almost a year-and-a-half after the court decision, and he had been unable to find why the site had not been cleared up in the mean time and returned to public use.
“Hopefully we will find out when the minister arrives,” Mr Crakanthorp said.
In July, a lands department spokesperson said no decision had been made on the future of the site and it was “focused on working with the developer” to remediate it and make it safe.
“A way forward will be determined once negotiations have been completed and the Aboriginal Land Claim has been considered. For public safety reasons the fencing will remain in place.”
Despite the fencing, people still regularly make their way to the Bogey Hole, as the Herald’s photograph shows.
Back up in King Edward Park, people the Herald spoke with said the swimming spot needed to reopen.
Mayfield couple Natali and Amir Salem, taking five visitors for a drive, said people needed to treat such areas with respect.
“Anything can be dangerous if you are mucking around,” Ms Salem said.
Hill resident Beth Timmins said the baths were “part of the history of Newcastle” and needed to reopen.
Mr MacDonald said he understood that people were wondering why things were taking so long but it was important to get the geotechnical side right once and for all.
Recalling the deaths of nine people when a cave collapsed at Huzza’s Beach, near Margaret River, in 1996, Mr MacDonald said: “We are talking about a very unstable part of the Newcastle coast and I will not be party to rushing this, and ignoring the geotechnical advice.”