The Greater Port Macquarie area is already home to some amazing events, festivals, attractions and public spaces. A lot of hard work and forward thinking by Council, individuals, clubs and community groups over the last 20+ years has helped elevate Port Macquarie to the no.3 tourist destination in New South Wales.
So what can we do to build on the great successes we have already achieved? What can we do to continue to put Port Macquarie on the map for the next 20+ years and secure the future for our children?
With the help of our friends on Facebook and some of our own ideas, this is our wish list for the future.
Build Something Big.
Coffs Harbour has the Big Banana, Taree the Big Oyster, Tamworth the Big Golden Guitar. Locally, we even had the Big Bull in Wauchope (which has since been taken down). Australia’s ‘big things’ seem to be a fad of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and they’ve lost their appeal (somewhat). But perhaps we should look at a more modern version of ‘something big’. The Angel of the North is a 20 metre tall steel sculpture that stands on a hill in Low Fell, Newcastle, United Kingdom. The project cost 1 million pounds, but has since been a tourism asset for Gateshead Council, attracting over 150,000 visitors each year and being seen by 90,000 motorists each day.
The idea of a large aquatic complex has been floated around before, as far back as 2006, when Council announced the Port Macquarie facility was ‘old and tired’. That was 6 years ago. While Kendall, Laurieton and Port Macquarie all have outdoor heated pools, our Wauchope pool is sadly still unheated and seasonal. Previous discussions about a Hastings Aquatic Complex have included a ‘theme park’ style development that could feature water slides, wave pools, hydrotherapy and kids’ zones. In a recent FOCUS poll on Facebook, over 470 locals voted a water park as the single most important addition they would like to see in Port Macquarie.
Town Green Wharf.
Remember the amazing sight of the 1903 sailing vessel, the Alma Doepel, which was docked at the Town Green? The boat featured in countless holiday snaps, and we still see pictures of it used today on occasion – even though it has long since left. Attracting a similar ship that can be docked permanently at the Lady Nelson Wharf would be a great asset for the area.
Decorate Our Towns.
Remember the excitement and anticipation in 2010, as we erected our very own Christmas Tree on the Town Green? What a fizzer. Last year instead, we lit up two pine trees, one by Council and one with the support of the Chamber of Commerce and a number of local businesses (all of whose support is appreciated). The intention was good, but the results were a little underwhelming. Port Macquarians and their children love to spend an evening during Christmas visiting the many streets that take pride in ‘lighting up’ for Christmas. And boy, do some of the houses put on a show. So it begs the question … If locals with a bit of passion and some DIY skills do it at home, why can’t we do it in our main streets? Red tape, lack of funding and the large scale might make this understandably impossible, but it’s still on our wish list.
Commission Quirky Street Art.
The Hastings area already features some interesting and unique artworks, including Folly – the Windmill Hill Sculpture, Floodtide at Laurieton and Spindrift at Bonnyhills, just to name a few. All these quirky artworks are visual eye candy, that intrigue and educate. There’s only one problem, as far as I can see: there’s not enough of it. The Hastings area could become known as the home of quirky artworks and street art. We could, for example, theme our bus stops, create unusual garbage bins or even paint art on the concrete walls that adorn the new Oxley Highway (which have already been graffitied).
Commercial realities might mean we never see the rebirth of our beloved Peppermint Park or Fantasy Glades. While the Gold Coast has become the home to the major theme parks in Australia, perhaps we can still get in on the act by borrowing the ‘superpass’ idea. Potentially, visitors could pay a flat fee and get access to our attractions, including Timbertown, The Billabong Wildlife Park, Sea Acres, Maritime Museum and more. We should also develop an Adventure Superpass which could include camel safaris, horse riding, rock climbing and sky diving, to name just a few.
Most towns, ours included, feature some kind of gateway signage. You may have seen the Welcome to Port Macquarie sign (with an outdated logo) on the Pacific Highway; plus, we have a few more entrance signs as you get closer to the centre of Port Macquarie, featuring a sunset, a wave and the hinterland. Neither of these signs do much to create an impact or give you a feeling of occasion.
Break a World Record.
The city of Alba Iulia, near the Romanian capital, Bucharest, put itself on the map by breaking a world record in 2009. Nearly 10,000 citizens of Alba Iulia and its surrounding townships gathered in a circle stretching over 3.4 km and literally embraced their city. It was the largest group hug ever recorded by Guinness World Records. Closer to home, the record for the largest Bikini Parade did stand at 287, set in Johannesburg, South Africa, but was then toppled by none other than the Gold Coast, Australia, with 357 participants claiming the record in 2011. What record could we break?
In order to future-proof our economy, we need to diversify. One way to do this would be to develop and market a Technology Park – perhaps also with attractive incentives for technology based businesses to relocate to the area, providing jobs and investment. Incentives could include subsidised land, or even free utilities. NBN ready development, Sovereign Hills, has been marketed as an area that will include a Technology Park; we hope it becomes a reality sooner rather than later, because this is an opportunity that can’t be passed up.
The artistic tribute (in the form of handcrafted bush furniture and a unique spiral path) to celebrate the life of the unofficial Mayor of Shelly Beach, Harry Thompson, was so well done, it makes us wonder … why didn’t we continue the theme to our other public areas? The timber sculpture of a caravan, which acts as a family picnic table at Shelly Beach, is not only functional but a real talking point. The new picnic shelters recently built on Rotary Park at Town Beach was a lost opportunity to continue with unique hand crafted furniture that locals and visitors will not only enjoy, but also be educated and inspired by.
Build a University Campus.
The Charles Sturt University, UNSW, University of Newcastle and Southern Cross University have all recently started offering courses in Port Macquarie. The UNSW is operating a facility of Medicine in a state of the art campus next to the public hospital. And Charles Sturt has partnered with TAFE to offer courses in creative industries, accounting and business studies, health and rehabilitation science, teaching, education, early childhood and social work. All go a long way to helping our youth graduate into the workforce, without having to relocate elsewhere. All these courses are a great asset to our area, but ultimately a large purpose built, stand alone campus with onsite accommodation still remains a long term goal – especially considering even UNSW admits our local public transport is “well below metropolitan standard”.
Official Nude Beach.
By far the biggest feedback from any single interview or editorial we have ever done here at FOCUS was an exposé (pardon the pun) of our unofficial nude beach, Miners. While promoting the coastal walk as a family friendly activity, several nude bathers at Miners do like to surprise the odd family (children included) with a perfectly timed walk down the beach. Miners continues to be unofficial, and signs do indicate that offended walkers should call the police. Which brings us to our point: should we make Miners an official nude beach? Or at least, find another suitable beach that could be classed as official? From the feedback this publication has had over the years, it would be a tourism asset for this town. It’s not my cup of tea (no one needs to see that!), but that doesn’t mean we should be against it.
Effective Airport Hub.
Our current airport isn’t big enough to land either Boeing’s or Airbus’ smallest planes. The upcoming increase in the length of the runway and the airport upgrade with solve that; but, finding the capacity to make sure it’s financially viable to land bigger planes just as regularly is going to be difficult. Direct flights to Brisbane are already a reality, thanks to Virgin Australia, and let’s hope the flight continues to be viable. Services direct to Melbourne, Gold Coast or even New Zealand and Fiji are possible with the extension to the runway, but as Coffs Harbour has proven, having a bigger runway doesn’t mean the airlines will flock in with new routes and more planes. We must market the airport as a major hub for not only the Mid North Coast, but also perhaps the New England.
What Would You Do?
Public recycle bins, self cleaning toilets, public rent a bike, RV parks, expanded cycle lanes … the list is endless. What would you do?
Join the discussion by leaving your comments below!
This story was published in issue 78 of Port Macquarie Focus