One of Newcastle’s iconic landmarks is a step closer to being listed on the NSW State Heritage Register (SHR).
With its spectacular ocean views, importance to the town’s traditional custodians – the Awabakal people, penal and defence history, and timeless appeal for picnics and recreation, King Edward Park holds enormous significance to Novocastrians.
Now, its heritage value is set to be highlighted, with City of Newcastle councillors endorsing a nomination to list Newcastle Recreation Reserve on the SHR.
The decision whether to apply heritage listing to the site will be made by the NSW Government’s Special Minister for State Don Harwin.
The Newcastle Recreation Reserve includes King Edward Park, Obelisk Park and tennis courts, Arcadia Park, Shepherds Hill Defence Reserve Military Installations, the Bogey Hole baths and the cliffside above South Newcastle Beach.
It excludes the King Edward Headland Reserve (the former Newcastle Bowling Club site), which is owned by the local Aboriginal community through the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council following a successful claim in 2018 under the 1983 Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the heritage listing of Newcastle Recreation Reserve, which is being considered by the Heritage Council of NSW, recognised the significance of the area.
“It is a site of considerable cultural, historic and heritage significance to the people of NSW,” she explained.
“The reserve includes sites of known cultural significance to the Awabakal people, and was the scene of important early interactions with Europeans.
“It was declared a recreation reserve in 1863 and is a rare example in NSW of a comparatively undeveloped inner-city landscape.
“King Edward Park’s Victorian rotunda is an iconic local landmark, while countless Novocastrians have admired the bright annual flower displays that fill the sunken garden with a rainbow of colour each spring.
“The reserve also possesses coastal native grasslands, including Themeda grass, which is an endangered ecological community threatened by coastal development and weed invasion.
“Listing the Newcastle Recreation Reserve on the State Heritage Register would support City of Newcastle’s commitment under the 2030 Community Strategic Plan and Heritage Strategy 2020-2030 to celebrate, protect and promote our city’s unique built and cultural heritage.”
Cr Nelmes said a listing on the State Heritage Register would put City of Newcastle in a stronger position to obtain funding for heritage projects at the site.
“Regardless of its inclusion on the SHR, any future development of the Headland Reserve will need to be consistent with the City’s zoning and planning controls,” she added.
“Any future development application will need to address and respond to both onsite heritage and the heritage values of adjoining parcels.
“Ultimately this matter will be resolved by recommendation of the Heritage Council to the minister for determination.”
Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Rob Russell welcomed City of Newcastle’s decision to support the nomination in its current format, which excludes the King Edward Headland Reserve from the potential heritage listing.
“The central purpose of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act of 1983 is to provide Aboriginal people with economic independence, to alleviate disadvantage and to compensate for past injustices,” he said.
“That is why land grants such as the former Newcastle Bowling Club site are so important and so valuable.
“Heritage listing of this land would have a negative impact on the Awabakal Land Council’s capacity to achieve any financial reward to share with the community from the granting of this land claim, it would disincentivise proposals for any future development.
“The former Newcastle Bowling Club site provides tenuous evidence of significance or heritage value – decades of use as a bowling club have disturbed and destroyed any remnant of Aboriginal cultural heritage.
“However, future development of the site will ultimately allow us to return Aboriginal culture to King Edward Park as part of any operational facility.
“To take Aboriginal culture back to this great location and realise its potential for contemporary Aboriginal people and all Novocastrians.”