South Newcastle skate bowl plan makes zero sense

BIG CONCERNS: Paul Scott agrees Bathers Way needs activation, but says the planned skate park is not the answer.
BIG CONCERNS: Paul Scott agrees Bathers Way needs activation, but says the planned skate park is not the answer.

I LOVE the new skateboard parks. Not sure I will feel the same about a skateboard park proposed by Newcastle City Council that may take up some 650-700 square metres of space on the sand at south Newcastle.

I prefer that Australian beaches remain free of fabricated structures.

There’s enough of them off the sand at Newcastle beach and their shadows already intrude in a manner that would never have been tolerated in contemporary Sydney.

Perhaps the DAs that allowed a Gold Coast in our midst argued that the afternoon shadows would provide valuable protection from melanomas.

The apartments may be nice to live in, but they’re ugly as sin to look at.

Just on Newcastle City Council, local wags in polite company reckon NCC stands for “No Cranium Cares”. In less polite company, they imagine it stands for something else.

When the proposed name change to City of Newcastle gets up, the acronym will become CoN.

An employee will have a CoN job.

I’m not fussed on the name of the body and see merit in consistency with other large councils in NSW such as the City of Sydney or the City of Parramatta.

I don’t know when the word council became so toxic, but it’s clear our top bureaucrat would prefer to have the town crier announce his arrival at the ball as the CEO of the City of Newcastle. 

Skateboarding. The brand spanker skate parks at Charlestown and Cameron Park backed by Lake Macquarie City Council are totes sick according to frothing advocates who crave vertical drops down a steep bowl.

And LMCC have plans for more skate parks at Morisset, Croudace Bay and Windale. 

There are also new skateboard facilities being planned for Marketown and Westfield Kotara.

That’s a boom by any measure.

Skate parks used to cop a lot of stink-eye.

Remember back in 2010 when the Protect Empire Park group reckoned the sky would fall if the facility on Memorial Drive went ahead?

PEP had concerns about vandalism, loss of green open space, public safety, lack of parking and public transport, appearance, noise to surrounding neighbours, the size of the amenity and the six o’clock spill.

Time proved the fears were unfounded.

Those arguments are of little relevance to the proposed $11 million revamp for south Newcastle beach.

For Lord Mayor Nelmes, this skate park will provide an iconic drawcard to Bathers Way.

It will activate “southy”. As long as it isn’t referred to as world-class, I can swallow the hype. But I can’t swallow the bowl on the beach.

But I can’t swallow the bowl on the beach. Other than arguments around aesthetics, sea-level rise or changes to sand banks affecting surf breaks ... opposition to the planned skateboard bowl is technical.

Other than arguments around aesthetics, sea-level rise or changes to sand banks affecting surf breaks – although one mate reckons resultant backwash from the bowl might help the almost mythical Graveyards peel like Snapper in the right conditions – opposition to the planned skateboard bowl is technical.

Such views express that artificial structures (such as concrete sea-walls) can force erosion on beaches when they’re secured too close to the high-tide line.

This is because destructive wave action is intensified and constructive wave action is blocked.

The sand then moves and once that’s gone, there’s no buffer for wave energy.

The big east coast lows that we get on our part of the coastline produce an energy that may exceed the resistance ability of a cement structure.

The council experts reckon it’ll be sweet and that their design will withstand storms.

I hope their intel is better than that provided to the kingfish farmers at Port Stephens.

That advice reckoned the nets would withstand a 15-metre swell, but the nets didn’t withstand a six metre swell. Anyway, the fishos and bullsharks didn’t mind too much.

The southy skatepark needs a rebuild and warrants investment.

That part of the Bathers Way needs activation. There’s no doubting that.

But is the current plan to bung part of it on the sand an icing on the cake or a bowl on the beach?

I guess we’ll know for sure when we cop an east-coast low with an intensity similar to those received during 1974, 2007 and 2016.

Because when there are storms like those that grounded the Sygna and the Pasha Bulker, wave energy may exceed the ability of a cement structure.

And then there’ll be a huge repair tender for a CoN job.

Paul Scott is a lecturer in the School of Creative Industries at the University of Newcastle. In 2016, readers voted him the Hunter’s most miserable man. Twitter @paul_scott_ or emailpaulscott@gmail.com