Wollongong’s civic and tourism leaders have welcomed the “long overdue” proposal to revitalise the city’s historic harbour, but say funding from the state government will be vital to ensure the plan becomes a reality.
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he thought the NSW Government’s plan would allow the area to be maintained as a working harbour but encourage more tourism and recreation like swimming.
“But now, they will have to sit down and look at an implementation plan – it’s one thing to have this work done but now the government has to come to the party by putting the money behind it,” he said.
Some of the ideas proposed in the draft master plan, released last week, include building a cafe and yacht club function area on the central harbour pier, and in the long-term, replacing the “much criticised” co-op building with a modern “landmark”.
Options set out in the draft also question the future of the harbour as a place for boat repairs and maintenance, saying the idea of a working harbour is “an evolving concept” and can include fishing, boat supply sales and a fish market.
“The harbour will have to be well managed if it’s going to continue as a functional port, for recreational fishers and yachtspeople,” Cr Bradbery said.
“Having a working harbour adds to the character of the place, I think, which is all part of the romance and the history of the harbour.
“It is a small space with a lot of expectations and competing interests, so I recognise there will need to be a distillation of what can practically happen there.”
Regarding funding, Cr Bradbery said he believed the Wollongong should be eligible to apply for projects related to the harbour upgrade through the NSW Government’s Snowy Hydro Fund.
However, the city – along with Newcastle – has been excluded from the $4 billion regional cash injection as they are not considered to be regional by the Berejiklian Government.
“This is not an asset just for us – it is a regional asset and something that is used by people from all over the southern part of the state,” Cr Bradbery said.
The region’s tourism boss Mark Sleigh praised the master plan, especially its emphasis on putting “sensible commercial attractors” at the popular tourism spot.
“We want to make sure that people are not just down there enjoying the stunning natural amenity, they are also able to enjoy a world class meal or a glass of wine or cup of coffee,” he said.
He said the two new commercial buildings – the cafe and restaurant and the museum – were overdue and would “clean up the area”.
“One of the things that really hold the area back is that there are limited ways for you to go down there and spend money – and in a genuine visitor economy, like the Gold Coast or Queenstown, there are commercial attractors every where you look,” he said.
“This is great for jobs and the local economy.”
Like Cr Bradbery, central Wollongong Labor councillor Tania Brown agreed that it was important for the area to remain as a working harbour and also said funding would be vital.
“It’s great the state has done this, but we’d welcome some funding to deliver on these ideas,” she said.
“The council and federal government have just recently spent a lot of money on the Tramway. I do think we need to also work with the private sector on delivering on this site, and I look forward to the ideas people bring to the table.”
Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward said he hoped some of the more ambitious ideas – including a proposal to extend the northern breakwater wall and set up a marina and floating cafe – would spark debate and conversations, so residents would submit feedback to be considered in the final plan.
He said the final plan would present one clear way forward instead of having various options for how the harbour will operate.
Feedback is open until August 31, with the final document due to be released in October.