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Community to have their say on Tomaree Lodge

Community to have their say on Tomaree Lodge

Story and photos by Nigel Dique, Treasurer, EcoNetwork and
Vice-President Shoal Bay Community Association.

As outlined in my previous EcoUpdate article titled ‘Tomaree Headland – what’s at the end of the road‘, this continues to be an ongoing talking point in Port Stephens.

At long last the NSW Government is taking action to determine the future of the Tomaree Lodge site located at 4 Shoal Bay Road, Shoal Bay NSW 2315.

It has commenced community consultation, in Minister Natasha Maclaren-Jones’ words, “about how best to repurpose Tomaree Lodge for community use.”

This is a big step forward from previous bipartisan promises to keep the site in public/community ownership.

One of the issues holding up action was a land claim on the site by the Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council. This was dismissed on 19 October in the Land and Environment Court, which ruled that the site be retained by the Minister, in this case Natasha Maclaren-Jones, Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Services.

Mrs Maclaren-Jones said consultation, which commenced at the end of October 2022, is vital to deciding the best future use of the site.

This koala was spotted last weekend near the boom gate entry to the Lodge. Photo © Sue Mannering

In a media statement she said there would be consultation with the community and interested parties including Port Stephens Council, Worimi Aboriginal Land Council, and local community groups about how best to repurpose Tomaree Lodge for community use.

The NSW Government Government webpage ‘Future use of Tomaree Lodge’ states that it “is committed to retaining the Tomaree Lodge site in public hands and is asking the local community to help decide the best use for it in the future. Our commitment is that we retain the site for community and recreational purposes. This community consultation process will assist with determining how Tomaree Lodge is best used for community benefit.”

The consultation period runs until Friday 6 January 2023. Click here for more information and to Have Your Say.

Consultation is sure to attract a diverse range of ideas and suggestions for the site, which has spectacular views to the north and west, and a fascinating history, having been occupied by the Worimi people prior to European settlement, and turned into a military base in 1942 for the defence of Newcastle and the Hunter region.

The Lodge was part of a WWII garrison camp to defend the entrance to the port and to provide for amphibious training for U.S. and Australian soldiers. In 1947 ownership was transferred from Defence to NSW Health as accommodation for people with intellectual disabilities, who have since been transferred to group homes. Some of the buildings are heritage-listed.

The site is bordered to the east by an elevated section of Tomaree National Park, containing a walkway to the 161-metre high summit, drawing around 200,000 visitors each year keen to enjoy the idyllic views of Port Stephens and its coastline.

In 2016 the Shoal Bay Community Association Inc. (SBCA) proposed that the NSW Government establish a reserve trust to manage Tomaree Lodge once residents had been rehoused.

This proposal has since been taken up by the Tomaree Heritage Headland Group Inc. (THHG), as an example of an appropriate ownership/management model.

THHG, which has been most active in communications with the NSW Government and Port Stephens Council, believes the site has great potential in terms of education and research relating to marine science, nature conservation, history and indigenous culture.

It has developed a Strategic Concept Plan and wants to have a Master Plan prepared for the adaptive re-use of the Tomaree Lodge site for implementation within the next few years. If you have any questions please contact the Tomaree Headland Heritage Group.

THHG Inc’s participating groups comprise Business Port Stephens Inc., Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch Inc., Destination Port Stephens Inc., Shoal Bay Community Association Inc., EcoNetwork Port Stephens Inc., Marine Parks Association Inc., Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association Inc., Port Stephens Historical Society Inc. and Tomaree Museum Association Inc.

In the meantime, the NSW Government has developed a Conservation Management Plan for Tomaree Headland but, disappointingly, has not released it publicly, which seems odd given that community consultation has begun.

It’s reasonable to assume that information contained in the plan, especially if thoroughly researched, could influence community views. Why go to the expense of developing a plan and hide it?

In any event, community consultation will end at close of 2022. All eyes will then be on just how the Government processes and responds to community views.

Useful links:

Published: 8 Nov 2022