Newcastle Now's plans for Nobbys in trouble

NO image captures Newcastle more completely than Nobbys.

Famous the world over, this imposing rock at the end of its own man-made beach should be one of the Hunter’s premier tourist attractions.

Instead, successive proposals to do anything with the site beyond preserving it in aspic have all run aground for variety of reasons.

The first plan for a modest development on the headland – the subject of a tender won by restaurateur Neil Slater – fell foul of the federal environment and heritage minister of the day, Peter Garrett, who rejected the proposal in 2008.

Mr Garrett gave a scaled-back version the go-ahead the following year, but a bruised Mr Slater  had endured enough by then, and went on instead to spearhead the campaign to build the much-acclaimed Anzac Walk.

Hopes were revived in 2012, when the Nobbys lease was handed to Newcastle Now, a council-funded body that had been known until the previous year as the Newcastle City Centre Committee.

At the time, Newcastle Now had hopes to bring people back to Nobbys in a “low key” way, and over the years it has spent at least $180,000 in grant money, as well as “in kind” donations, to repair and refurbish the admittedly dilapidated buildings left by the port corporation.

Now, it seems, its Nobbys plans are up in the air as part of a protracted dispute with Newcastle City Council, whose chief executive Jeremy Bath has made it clear he is no fan of the organisation.

That argy-bargy no doubt has some way to run, but in the meantime, it’s the public who are the losers because of yet another failure to execute what should have been a fairly simple game plan.

It’s true that there was a vocal minority opposed to almost any development on Nobbys, but the success of Merewether’s Surf House – against similarly vocal opposition – is probably the best indicator that Newcastle is ready to move with the times.

Our leaders talk a lot about making Newcastle a “world-class” city. In Nobbys, we have a truly world-class attraction, but one that has been mired for too long in the byways of bureaucracy.

For the pleasure of residents and visitors alike, it’s time for the responsible parties to put the Nobbys plan into action, or find someone who can.

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