Here in Wollongong, we love a good fence. Yep, if there's one thing the city council is good at, it's building fences.
That's perhaps unfair. Wollongong City Council is also very good at drafting policies and developing strategies. These are skills honed by lots of practice.
But WCC's fence building prowess is on display for all to see, in some of our most prominent locations.
Come have a look at the refurbished Wombarra pool, and the new, great sea wall. But first, behold the Great Fence of Wombarra! For some reason, a heavy-gauge steel fence now dominates the vista, erected between the car park and the beach, atop the sea wall. It protects people from a drop of about 2-3m, mostly onto sand.
Further north, the Grand Pacific Walk at Coalcliff was opened with fanfare last December. Nice to have a safe walking path. But did it need dominating, heavy-gauge fences on both sides - when there's already a guard rail from the road in place, and the point is meant to be appreciating the area's natural beauty?
Council calls this a "highly visual structural balustrade".
I'm sure there's a risk manager with a very good reason, but I'm not sure this was the only possible design. Walkers don't need to be caged in.
A bit further along, there are even fences across the pathway, telling cyclists they must dismount and walk. It's possible this is for pedestrian safety, but I can't help wonder if it was just the pure love of fence.
Recently, at our expense, council has hired a temporary fence for Brickyard Point in Austinmer, where the Headlands Hotel meets a grassy area then a sheer cliff, with only a few shrubs in between.
Some say no way, it's the nanny state, people should know the risk. Are we going to fence every headland, they ask.
This is no ordinary headland, however - there's a pub on it. Kids play on the grass, juiced up on Fanta, all the way into the clifftop shrubs. Often parental supervision isn't what it could be, and the risk at this cliff is real. If it's possible (unlike Coalcliff) to build a fence with some restraint, maybe this one makes sense.
But should ratepayers foot the bill? Or should they fence the hotel instead?
The hotel is a for-profit enterprise, complete with $10 beers, $4.50 for a lime and soda. If a safety risk exists, mostly affecting patrons attracted to the spot by the hotel, shouldn't the hotel pay?
And designing it - there's a truly scary prospect: choosing between the hotel's concrete-box aesthetic, and council's fondness for heavy-gauge galvanised pipe.
Yep, we're caught between a rock shelf and a caged space.