Time for some new ideas as city’s playground prepares for a facelift
Source: SMH, by: Nicole Hasham, Monday 8 October
A NEW vision is being sought for Bondi as Waverley Council devises a 10-year blueprint for Sydney’s most famous stretch of sand, including ideas such as year-round beach volleyball.
Submissions are invited on the future of the area, which attracts 1.8 million people a year, including up to 50,000 beachgoers a day in summer.
The plan of management covers the beach, park, pavilion and promenade, including Queen Elizabeth Drive, Wally Weekes Pool and Biddigal Reserve.
The stately, ageing pavilion – long a drain on the council’s maintenance budget – could be transformed into an “incubator hub” for emerging IT and creative businesses, the Labor councillor John Wakefield said.
It would expand the council’s push towards a “creative economy”, including a free Wi-Fi trial at Bondi beach and park, expected to start in December, to cater for the suburb’s large number of creative professionals. ”We have a fair bit of space … it’s time to give consideration to what the pavilion is used for. Some of the arts and craft space is very much technology of an older era,” Cr Wakefield said.
The council will also consider introducing year-round ball sports. It played host to beach volleyball for the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Traffic and parking will likely dominate debate, amid claims by business owners that parking restrictions continue to stymie trade. The council is expected to consider the viability of underground parking to eliminate cars from the beachfront.
The federal MP Malcolm Turnbull, whose electorate, Wentworth, takes in the beach, said congestion was one of Bondi’s biggest problems, and more public transport was needed. “Ideally, we would bring light rail back running down Bondi Road and right up Campbell Parade to North Bondi – bring back the tram in other words. But I recognise the cost would be formidable,” he said.
The vice-president of the Bondi Chamber of Commerce, Mary Anne Cronin, called on the council to raise the suburb’s profile as a winter destination, through better marketing and building on events such as the Winter Magic festival.
The Greens councillor Dominic Wy Kanak said improved co-operation between the council and Aboriginal groups was required to manage unearthed artefacts along the beachfront.
The vagaries of bureaucratic endeavour have not always been kind to Bondi.
In World War II, officials ordered that tunnels from the beach to the pavilion be destroyed, fearing an invasion. But the army used too many explosives, blowing out the windows and spraying chunks of concrete into neighbouring buildings.
By 1975, the pavilion had fallen into disrepair, derided by one observer as a ”damp, mildewed, mock-Spanish mansion”. It prompted a councillor to declare “I’d like to put a bomb under [it]”.
But Waverley’s mayor, Sally Betts, said the public should not fear any “drastic” changes over the next decade. “We are not going to turn it into another Westfield, or demolish it, and I don’t think the community wants that.”
A Bondi lifeguard, Bruce Hopkins, 43, said: ”My vision would be that everyone could learn to surf better than they do now, so we’d have fewer injuries.”
A resident, David Jackson, 33, would like more parking ”and I think they should do more with the pavilion”.
The restaurant owner Iraklis Poulos, 50, agreed that parking was a problem. ”If you don’t live close to the area it’s a nightmare.”.
The public can make submissions via an online survey at waverley.nsw.gov.au/bondipom. Responses close on November 30.
A ”Have a Say in the Park” day will be held on November 17 at Bondi Park.