Skydive the Beach plan up in the air

Artist impression of the proposal from the Stuart Park footpath/cyclepath. Picture: Submitted.
Artist impression of the proposal from the Stuart Park footpath/cyclepath. Picture: Submitted.

Controversial plans to replace Skydive the Beach's North Wollongong headquarters with a modern administrative block at the edge of Stuart Park will be in the spotlight at Monday night's council meeting.

Concerns about the proposed development, which has so far garnered mixed opinions, will be raised by Greens councillor Jill Merrin in a bid to have the issue referred to the Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel.

Cr Merrin will table a motion urging council to prepare and provide to councillors a history of the proposal, a costs and benefits report and an explanation as to why the development should not go to public tender.


"It worries me that we are going to hand over an area of a public park to a private business for a purpose-built building, which is quite a bit different from leasing out an existing building on an existing site," she said.

The proposed 400-square metre premises, earmarked for a site near the corner of Kembla Street and George Hanley Drive, would include a reception and waiting area, a merchandise shop and a coffee kiosk, staff offices and parachute packing and storage space.

It would also have unisex public toilets, a deck and outdoor training area.

Cr Merrin said, while she supports the business, there was nothing stopping it from operating its headquarters in commercial space elsewhere outside the park.

"There's no reason Skydive shouldn't continue to drop their parachutists into the park," she said.

"But there's no reason that I can see why they should have an administrative building and a cafe in the park when there are plenty of other operators - like fitness businesses - who have their headquarters elsewhere.

"They can still provide the same amount of jobs and generate the same income without having a building in the park."

Cr Merrin was also concerned the council had been inconsistent by not allowing this development of public land to go to tender.

Ward 2 councillor Michelle Blicavs said the community would benefit from the development, despite concerns council is handing over public land too freely.

"The current use of the park is not going to change at all ... it's simply a change of location, which I think will provide better amenity in the Stuart Park area," Cr Blicavs said.

"Hopefully what this means is that we can do something more with that area where the current car park is and building is, in the way of community facilities."

Opinion was split among online commenters when the Mercury revealed the plans to replace the ageing Stuart Park cottage with a modern building.

"Surely this is a bad joke allowing a private company to usurp community land and build a rather big building therefore disfranchising [sic] the public of a walkway/bike track," Courtney Act said.

"Big building? Oh no, bit of grass is gone ... on the far side ... where no-one goes. Wollongong should be renamed Whingogong," Blah countered.

"Sky dive [sic] the beach, what a great tourist attraction for the Gong. A new building would be great, much more attractive than the current building. More tourists to the Gong, more money spent, more job creation for our youth. Embrace change people," Di said.


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