THE Bogey Hole will reopen “this summer”, the Baird government has announced.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair was in Newcastle on Monday to announce the NSW government will spend “up to” $491,000 to ensure the iconic swimming spot – closed since November last year – will reopen “later this year, or hopefully at the latest very early in 2017”.
“The Bogey Hole is an important asset but safety was the issue, particularly the over-hanging cliff face,” he said.
“This $491,000 should go to addressing those safety concerns and open that are back up to the public [so that it can] continue to be enjoyed by the people of Newcastle.”
Mr Blair also announced on Monday that the government would immediately start removing the temporary fencing surrounding the former bowling club site at King Edward Park.
“Today we’re starting to decommission some of the fencing [and] returning some of the greens back to open public space for the people of Newcastle,” he said.
“This is something that has been a real issue for the people of Newcastle … there will need to be some fencing that will remain because of some safety issues but the majority of the fencing around King Edward Park will start to be taken down today.”
The fencing has remained around the site May 2015 when a 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 Merewether Surfhouse development.
However Mr Blair would not comment on a possible future use of the site, saying the government “focus” had been “getting the fencing taken down”.
“One of the issues we’ve had here in King Edward Park is that the public felt that they wanted to get back to the use of this area for recreational purposes,” he said.
“We have worked closely through our department to go in and do some further clean up work so we can be in a position to remove the fences.”
Following the court case 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.
There have been fears from some of the community groups that opposed Mr Stronach’s development that if the land was given to the Land Council on a “freehold” title then it could come to a private agreement to develop the site.
But Mr Blair would not comment on that, saying he was not part of any negotiations to hand over the title.
“At this stage the land claim is undetermined, that’s the only thing I have access to,” he said.
“Once a determination is made then those lands are subject to the normal planning approvals.
“At this stage, the King Edward Park is back in the hands of the public as we stand here today, the fence will start to come down and the future use will be subject to what happens with the Aboriginal land claim.”
The heritage listed Bogey Hole was closed after Newcastle City Council told the government there were issues with a “geotechnical fault and instability” on the surrounding cliffs.
The government commissioned a geotechnical report, and Mr Blair said his department had responded to its recommendations.
“Once again, an important asset to the people of Newcastle … it has been off limits because of safety concerns,” he said.
“Safety is always a concern when we’re looking at issues of the cliff face and the overhanging rocks.
“But it’s an issue no more … we have committed nearly half-a-million for remediation works so it can be opened up hopefully as soon as possible.
“Obviously when we have an exposed cliff face that’s open to the elements there are always going to be issues.
“The geotechnical report has indicated what needs to be done and we’re getting on with that work.”
The Newcastle Herald, as well as local Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp, have campaigned for the Bogey Hole to open in time for summer.
On Monday Mr Crakanthorp said he would continue to pressure the government into fulfilling its commitment.
“There was very little detail today about what work needs to be done so certainly until the fences are down I will continue to press the government on this,” he said.