John Gwalter is passionate about our local area and more specifically, everything involving our waterways. After visiting hundreds of locations and gathering details and images from the Hastings waterways, John has complied a thorough and detailed directory of our waterways, boat ramps, public wharves, fishing spots, wild bait spots, slipways and much more. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
> Tell us a little bit about your history in Port Macquarie.
I came to PMQ about 15 years ago. I did part time work for National Parks. I wrote most of the management plan for all the National Parks around this area. Because I have skills in computing, I wrote the Wilddog Management Plan for the area. I annually do the aerial baiting, I design where they’re going to drop the baits and pass that information onto the aircraft, so it’s all automated now. Because I’ve got these skills, I got involved with the Maritime Museum.
> Tell us about Port Maritime CD and the Maritime Museum.
We currently have over 200 members involved as volunteers. The museum is open from 10am to 4pm every day and is the only place you can purchase the new CD (only $15 each). The Port Maritime CD is designed for tourists who arrive in PMQ with a boat, or any person who is interested in the marine environment. It explains where the boat ramps and public wharves are located, places to go water skiing, or for a waterside picnic, and where to get green weed if you’re fishing for black fish. There are also listings for places to go to repair your boat, and of course where to catch the fish. Virtually anything at all to do with the marine environment is on the CD, including surf clubs, sea rescue, and where to buy your fuel.
At the museum we have things like a display for the world champion wind surfer, Allison Shreeve, who comes from Port Macquarie.
We have a display about the Excelsior, which is being restored at our boat yard – quite a lot of people don’t know we own a boatyard. The Excelsior rescued five people from Wullumbar II, which was torpedoed off Crescent Head in 1943 by a Japanese submarine. Twenty six ships were sunk by the Japanese off the coast here, which is a really interesting part of our maritime history that is unknown to many people.
> What inspired you to develop Port Maritime CD?
My brother works at the Maritime Museum centre in Newcastle, and they received a grant to produce a CD like this. We thought it would be a great thing for our museum to also produce one. They have sold thousands of them down there, but I don’t expect the same sales here!
It’s not designed so much for income – it’s designed to get people to come and have a look at what’s available, which will bring people into the museum. We’re also after a grant for audiovisual equipment so we can display it in the museum and perhaps supply the CDs at cost or print out individual slides.
It’s designed for people who are unfamiliar with the area: they own a boat, or they like to go fishing, or they like to pump for their bait. All this information is available all over the place, but you have to know where to go to ask. So this will bring everything together.
It also shows you, for every location, a photograph, a map, what the facilities are, and where all the commercial activities go on.
> A lot of work has gone into this. How long has it taken you?
It took me about 2 months. I had to drive to every site, take several photographs at the site, record what facilities were there, take a GPS position and then insert it into a Powerpoint format that was easy to understand. It was very hard to design the Powerpoint layout.
> You have gone into quite a lot of detail; the Henry Kendall Ramp has even been included.
It’s definitely not much of a ramp … but it’s on the map, so we included a photo. They say there’s a ramp at Henry Kendall Reserve, but I don’t recommend using it! That’s why the pictures are there. However, on the entrance into Henry Kendall there’s a beautiful spot for a waterside picnic and for the kids to fish. I must say I was amazed at how many waterside picnic areas there are around the shire – it’s incredible. They are very well presented, but not well known.
> If you were giving recommendations to a tourist or even a local, what would you tell them?
There are so many special parts in Port Macquarie – it’s very difficult. I couldn’t just choose one, because it would depend on their interests. I would tell them to buy the CD, because it has all the fishing spots, including Tom Dicks Hole, The Wall, Dennis Bridge and places for the kids to fish. It surprised me how many picnic areas and boat ramps there are – particularly in the Camden Haven area.
> Did you have support from the business community?
No – all internal resources. I must say, everywhere I went, I asked the commercial businesses to be involved. Everything from boat maintenance to retailers, everything to do with the water on one CD. It’s as complete as I can make it, and we are updating all the time.
> Thank you John.
The Maritime Museum is located at 6 William Street where you can buy the CD.