WITH a snap and a crack, Munmorah Power Station’s twin chimney stacks gracefully fell to the ground – signalling the start of a new era and the sad end of one for others.
On Sunday, at 10.11am, 11 minutes after schedule, southern Lake Macquarie’s skyline markedly changed for the first time since the mid-1960s, as what is being billed as one of the largest power station demolition projects in Australia made itself known.
Hundreds who gathered in a nearby park – many of them former employees of the power station – let out a collective gasp as the pair of 155-metre stacks made their 10-second fall to the ground.
For many, it was a sad moment as the reality of the power station’s gradual demolition set in.
The power station had been not just a landmark of the skyline, but also the beating heart of the community, employing thousands in the 45 years between 1967 and 2012.
Bob Porter, who began work at Munmorah in 1970 as a mechanical engineer and rose to become manager, said he was feeling nostalgic on Sunday as the “enormous pride” of working at the power plant came flooding back.
Mr Porter said it would take some time to reason with the fact that the chimney stacks had come down.
“In its heyday in the early ’70s, this was the flagship of the NSW power station industry,” he said.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm, an enormous pride in working here, so there’s a lot of emotion and sentiment today because those stacks are the first external sign that the station is going to disappear. All we’ll finish up with are memories, I’m afraid.”
Gordon Neale, who worked at the power station for 38 years, said he came to see the chimneys topple with “a little bit of apprehension”.
“I was only a young 20-year-old when I started here. I saw it as an enormous privilege,” he said. “And in some ways, today feels like going to a funeral. But that’s life, it moves on."
Mick Smith said working at Munmorah was the “greatest part of my life”.
“But life moves on,” he said.
Terryl Frazer, who worked at the site as a secretary, was misty-eyed.
“You think of the years of toil and effort that went into here,” she said. “It’s just a building, and to a lot of people it was a nuisance, but it did a good job: it kept the lights on and kept people employed.”