THE cruise ship Celebrity Solstice came and went from Newcastle on Wednesday, on its way in leisurely fashion to the Great Barrier Reef.
Newcastle has become something of a magnet for the cruise industry in recent years, and at least a dozen more vessels are expected in the coming months before the season shuts down for winter. Average stays are short, but there is little doubt that the arrival of so many tourists – whether they be domestic or international visitors – provides a boost for the region’s tourism industry.
The size of that boost can be debated, but one thing is certain: the cruise ships are less disruptive than their four-wheeled counterparts, the Supercars.
If visitors from Celebrity Solstice had gone for a walk through Newcastle East they would have seen red plastic barriers still on the road at Nobbys, more than a month after the last Supercar had howled to a standstill.
Regardless of how successful the races are deemed to have been, there is no doubt that the harbour foreshore park is somewhat denuded when the numbers of trees felled to make way for temporary race facilities and camera sight-lines are taken into account.
The council is promising to plant 230 new trees and shrubs to replace the 170 that were removed to make way for the race, but relations between the council and the Newcastle East Residents Group appear to be strained at best, with spokeswoman Karen Read promising the residents’ group would be holding the council “to account” over its replanting effort.
Given that the Supercars are destined to return for another four Novembers at least, the council and race organisers need to do as much as they humanly can to ease the burden on residents. At the same time, the residents must do their best to accept that living by an increasingly famous set of beaches comes with a price tag that goes beyond the dollar cost of the real estate.
As the Celebrity Solstice sailed out of Newcastle, it slid out onto an ocean that is destined to create “extreme” risks between Hawks Nest and Forster, according to a report by oceanic consultants prepared for the former Great Lakes Council.
The CSIRO has predicted sea level rises of at least 0.45 metre by 2100, but with the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measuring Sydney’s rise at 0.65 millimetre a year – or about 53 millimetres by 2100 – there appears to be plenty of room for debate.