Port Kembla’s long-closed underground wartime tunnels could be opened to the public as part of a Wollongong City Council strategy to highlight the diverse history of Hill 60 lookout.
The plan, now on display, is designed to help the council cash in on the picturesque site’s heritage and tourism potential.
It would enhance viewing areas, install interpretive signage and artwork, and improve pedestrian and vehicle access throughout the headland precinct, which stretches from MM Beach to the volunteer coastguard building.
Additionally, the barricaded off, graffiti-covered network of tunnels underneath the hill, which were built to house guns and protect the port during World War II, could be opened to the public, the plan says, subject to approvals and structural engineering reports.
The council took control of Hill 60 in 2006, buying it from the federal government for $1, after community protests stopped land being sold commercially and turned into villas, flats and houses.
It is considered to be one of the region’s most important Aboriginal and European heritage sites.
Draft maps outlining a suggested overhaul show a heritage-focused walking track – to be known as the Ngaraba-ann Trail – which would link Port Kembla Heritage Park to Hill 60 and Coomaditchie Reserve.
The track would celebrate the Aboriginal cultural heritage of the area by establishing a series of plinths, viewing platforms and steel panels.
According to a conservation management plan, the headlands and its surrounds – MM Beach, Boilers Point and Fishermans Beach – contain ‘‘a rare suite of Aboriginal sites which demonstrate the evolving pattern of Aboriginal cultural history and the Aboriginal land rights struggle’’.
This is rare along the NSW coast, the conservation plan says, especially due to well-preserved shell middens, prehistoric stone artefacts and a burial ground where a human skull was found in 1974.
The draft landscape master plan will be on display until August 25, with residents invited to comment through the council’s website. The council will also host a community information session at the Port Kembla senior citizens centre on Saturday between 10am and midday.
Plans for hill 60 include:
- The Ngaraba-aan Trail to celebrate Aboriginal cultural history, which would link Port Kembla heritage park to Coomaditichie Reserve.
- A gliding take-off and landing point near the Radar Operations Centre observation deck, which would also be improved through better access and vegetation control.
- A structural engineer’s investigation into opening the military tunnels, as well as extra signage about the tunnels’ history and improved pedestrian access.
- A potential location for a coffee or food van.
- A series of artistic plinths and viewing panels highlighting thousands of years of Aboriginal occupation.
- Improvements to the amenities at MM Beach car park and beach entrance, which could include beach showers, drinking fountains and dog bowls.
- A series of laser-cut steel panels showing Aboriginal fishing methods at Fishermans Beach.