Rates bill could spell end for Big Potato

The iconic Big Potato in Robertson could soon be heading to the big potato field in the sky.

Affectionately known as The Wombat, The Log or The Big Turd, the concrete spud was built by Councillor Jim Mauger in 1977 on a block of land he owns in a prime position on Robertson’s main street.

Cr Mauger said he could no longer afford to keep the land as open space for the public given the amount of money the site was costing him in rates - about $1800 a year.

‘‘The rates on this are getting ridiculous. How can anyone afford to keep it as a park when the rates are so high?’’ he asked.

‘‘I don’t want to sell it, but it will now be auctioned as soon as possible. It’s the best block in Robertson.’’

The land, which Cr Mauger has owned for 40 years, is zoned commercial.

The Big Potato has been a fine addition to the list of ‘‘big things’’ on Australian roadsides but, just like the Big Prawn in Ballina, the potato will be sold and most likely torn down.

That is, unless a good-natured buyer decides to keep the site or even improve it to attract more visitors to the town.

Author David Clark, in his book Big Things: Australia’s Amazing Roadside Attractions, said the potato was a lost opportunity.

‘‘Sadly, the Big Potato is now in desperate need of some tender loving care and a lick of paint,’’ he wrote.

‘‘There’s no sign, no souvenir shop (one can only lament the lost merchandising opportunities) and no sense that the community has in the past taken any pride in its best-known icon.’’

But that was 2004 and the potato has been looking better in recent years.

The potato has also attracted its fair share of vandalism, most memorably in 2010 when residents woke up to find a giant papier-mache face stuck on one of its sides.

The face was actually seen as an improvement and many locals hoped it would be a permanent fixture. However, it lasted only one day before being removed.

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