Getting ready for Port Kembla stack demolition

Port Kembla Hotel patron John McDonald. Pictures: SYLVIA LIBER

Port Kembla Hotel patron John McDonald. Pictures: SYLVIA LIBER

Not all relationships are meant to last. So, you’ve shared many good and bad times together – at some point, you realise it is time to move on.

And so it is with Port Kembla’s beloved stack.

A survey of Wentworth Street shop owners and managers showed mixed feelings towards the planned demolition of the Port Kembla Copper smelter stack next week.

As  John McDonald, 61, sat with his beer in the Port Kembla Hotel, he expressed sadness at the fall of an icon.

‘‘It’s a sore point for me. It’ll be upsetting to watch and might even bring tears to my eyes,’’ he said.

Ben Simmonite, owner of Red Point Furniture Restoration, says it is time for Port Kembla to say goodbye to the stack.

Ben Simmonite, owner of Red Point Furniture Restoration, says it is time for Port Kembla to say goodbye to the stack.

‘‘There’s many who feel the same way.

‘‘The fishermen use it as a landmark.’’

One pub patron passing by yelled out to the Mercury: ‘‘Nobody will ever be able to find Port Kembla again.’’

Butcher Lloyd Burchell, who has worked here for more than 40 years, remembered the many smelter workers who came into his shop, telling their stories and sharing friendships. One particular rumour persisted.

‘‘I heard that when the stack was finished, someone stood on top and did a hand stand,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I think it could be.’’

Mr Burchell said he had mixed feelings about the stack’s demolition; it will be a sad event but inevitable in his eyes.

Red Point Furniture Restoration owner Ben Simmonite went one step further and said removing the stack signalled progress.

‘‘It’s not heritage-listed and, although it’ll be a different view driving to Port Kembla, I’m not overly worried about it,’’ he said.

Wentworth Emporium owner Joanne McClelland hoped the street would come back to life after the stack was gone.

‘‘I think Port Kembla needs to move forward,’’ she said.

Some locals were preparing to spend demolition day grieving and celebrating together at the Steelworks Hotel’s stack party.

The hotel is just outside the exclusion zone and manager Peita Grindrod said she was expecting hundreds, maybe thousands, to join them in a free barbecue on the day.

‘‘I’ve just finished designing special stack cocktails and shots,’’ she said.

‘‘They’re blue, green and red and they’re meant to look a bit like the stack.’’

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