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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Port Macquarie, New South Wales

Port Macquarie is growing at a rapid rate. The big guns, Coles and Woolworths have already moved in and Aldi is in the process of building their first supermarket and want an option to build another. It's so busy, it's a headache just going into town because there are so few car parking spaces. Workers in the central business district have nowhere to park and have to leave their cars and walk long distances to their offices and tourists have virtually no chance at all.

What was once a quiet seaside retirement village is now a hectic, bustling full-on city with 80,000 people swelling to 100,000 in summer and serious traffic chaos.

They opened a new commercial wharf this week which has been in the pipeline for ten years. It's basically to service the ship 'Island Trader' which has the contract to ship freight to Lord Howe Island but it will also open up potential for small commercial vessels such as cruisers, super yachts, government ships and possibly cargo that is not easily transported by road.

Owners of the 'Island Trader' have confirmed they wanted to relocate from Yamba because they were dissatisfied with the operating costs. The Lord Howe Island Sea Freight Pty Ltd was founded in 1992 with majority ownership being Lord Howe Island residents. The aim was to address the rising costs of sea freight to the island and Council says that most of the island's needs will in future be sourced from competitive local businesses in the Port Macquarie area. Nice one.

Port Macquarie really is a beautiful place with pretty beaches and lots of walks. The Council have done a marvelous job with their level walking paths right around their picturesque coastline. A new coastal walk was opened this year, it's 9 kilometres long and stretches from Westport Park in town to Tacking Point Lighthouse and takes in beaches, headlands, historic sites and rainforest.

The Glasshouse has caused bitter division in the town. It's a beautiful-looking building comprising a 606 seat performing arts theatre/concert hall, a 140 seat studio/rehearsal space, 600m2 regional gallery across three levels, 1820's heritage displays, conference areas, meeting rooms, cafe and bar.

It opened on the 3rd of July this year with a well known Sydney Theatre Company performing Taming of the Shrew. But when the arty folk of Port Macquarie were sipping champagne and soaking up the culture, the rest of the town were spitting chips. In fact the town was so angry about the $50 million blowout that it contributed to the dismissal of the council by the New South Wales government on 27th February, 2008.

Council revealed at this week's meeting that they can no longer afford to keep it and are looking for a buyer. It costs $6,000,000 a year just to keep it open. Ratepayers are furious that the Council is in deficit and that other projects planned for the area have to be suspended or abandoned.