THE HERALD'S OPINION: Reprieve gives Catherine Hill Bay jetty a chance to live on

WHEN bushfires came to Catherine Hill Bay in 2013, it was in the aftermath that residents cast their eye to the ocean and the smouldering jetty that is synonymous with the secluded hamlet.  

‘‘We’ve lost all our historical buildings now,’’ progress association president Sue Whyte said in 2013. ‘‘The jetty has become even more important.’’

Lake Coal applied in 2012 to demolish the jetty, citing its potential danger to the public. Years earlier it had offered the council $1 million to own the jetty, and at around that time its repair bill was estimated at $3 million. This newspaper reported that more than that figure again would have been required for upkeep over a decade.

In changing times it seems a rare day when there is not a structure with heritage or sentimental value facing an uncertain future in our region. From The Store’s outgoing facade to the post office back to the demise of Hunter Street’s Palais, there are many groups across the region that might understand that the jetty has significance for more than the marine life it attracts. 

A reprieve for the Catherine Hill Bay jetty to explore options for the site would be welcome news. That Lake Macquarie City Council and Lake Coal are endorsing the idea improves its likelihood, potentially preserving one of the region’s most iconic structures. 

Decisions on these icons should not be made lightly. Few cities around the world are successful drawcards without iconic sites and attractions, and many lean on their heritage to lend character and distinctiveness to even the newer shards of glass and steel stabbing into their skyline. Likewise, it is impossible to protect all that reminds us of the past. Our growth in the region brings with it greater demand for land and shifts competing demands on it into closer conflict. Few would relish the prospect of seeing Catherine Hill Bay without the struts that set it apart jutting towards the horizon. But as the township of Catherine Hill Bay itself faces a proposed influx of residents from subdivisions, likely to draw in young families who will spend time exploring the area, the risk of a rusty relic on the beach may become more pronounced. 

Preservation of the jetty also requires making it safe, a task that has previously carried an expensive price tag. Nothing lasts forever, but let us hope Catherine Hill Bay jetty has more than one year ahead of it. 

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