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Monday, March 8, 2021

Keep Newcastle Ocean Baths free, say Labor councillors

Two Labor councillors have declared their intentions to keep the Newcastle Ocean Baths free, honouring a 70-year pledge in the process.

And, on Tuesday 23 February, Carol Duncan and Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen will present a Notice of Motion to council, calling on City of Newcastle to reaffirm its enduring commitment to maintain the “status quo”.

The pair wants the Newcastle Ocean Baths to remain a safe, free, public facility, accessible to all Novocastrians regardless of socio-economic status, gender, age, mobility or background.

It follows a lengthy history of controversy for the popular swimming resource.

In October 1953, the Newcastle Ocean Baths were made free to the public, thanks to a contentious move from Newcastle Labor councillors, which drew fierce opposition from conservative counterparts and some local residents’ groups.

For more than 30 years prior to then, entry to the iconic facility was charged at a significant fee.

Works are currently underway on the design for the first stage of the upgrades, incorporating restoration of the pool and promenade, with construction to start in late 2021.

The second phase, which incorporates renewal of the pavilions and upper-level public space, will occur following further consultation.

“Our Ocean Baths are important to all Novocastrians,” Cr Duncan said.

“For those fortunate to live nearby, and for those who travel to enjoy the baths with their children and families from right across this region.

“For decades, they have flocked here.

“Recognising their importance to all Novocastrians, Labor councillors have had a 70-year commitment to free and accessible baths in Newcastle.

“The Trove database records a tremendous campaign led by Newcastle Labor councillors in the 1950s to protect the facilities, to remove expensive entry fees and to make them accessible to the whole community.

“This was in spite of aggressive opposition – and initial defeat.

“It’s a legacy that Newcastle should be proud of.”

Cr Clausen said Novocastrians must be under no doubt about its future, hence the duo’s stance.

“Newcastle Labor councillors’ enduring support of free and accessible Newcastle Ocean Bath remains unchanged,” he explained.

“Just last year, we reserved almost $10 million to start the upgrade and renewal of the facilties; and tenders for the first phase have been awarded.

“We maintain our commitment to working with a wide cross section of our community, to ensure that upgraded baths meet the needs of our growing City.”

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