IN unveiling its plans for a substantial and eye-pleasing makeover of its somewhat utilitarian premises, Merewether Surf Life Saving Club has joined its neighbours Dixon Park and Cooks Hill SLSCs in the scramble to secure public and private funding to realise their dreams and aspirations.
With an early costing of at least $2.5 million to $3 million, the proposed new Merewether surf club would certainly be an aesthetic improvement on the existing structure, which like other clubs in the Newcastle City Council area, houses both public change rooms and toilets, as well as club-only facilities.
Not so long ago, the Merewether club looked more or less at home in its surroundings, with its closest neighbours being the long dilapidated controversy that was the original Surf House, and an iconic, if down-at-heel set of ocean baths.
But the many millions of public dollars poured into the Bathers Way and other coastal improvements – together with the private investment in the Merewether Surfhouse establishment – have brought a new sheen to the southern end of the Merewether-to-Bar Beach stretch.
As a result, the SLSC building is showing its age – inside and out – and the club executive is determined to put forward the best business case it can to fund its expansion.
As Hunter SLSC chief executive Rhonda Scruton observed when discussing the future for the five clubs in the Newcastle area, Newcastle City Council is the landlord for each organisation, and each of the upgrade plans depends on a nod from the council in order to become a reality.
Having adopted a Coastal Plan of Management in 2015, the council has confirmed it is now working on a draft Coastal Buildings Implementation Plan, which “includes improvements to surf lifesaving club facilities along the Newcastle coastline”.
Although Ms Scruton was expecting this plan to be available for public discussion in the coming months, the council, when asked, said there was no date set for its release. It would be understandable if the council wanted to co-ordinate proceedings to ensure an orderly development of coastal facilities, but the surf life saving clubs play a valuable role – alongside the council’s paid lifeguards – each swimming season, and their membership is rising along with our population. For their part, the clubs just want to keep on doing what they do.