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Petition receives wave of signatures

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Novocastrians are jumping in the deep end to save the Newcastle and Merewether Ocean Baths.

Following an announcement from City of Newcastle calling for expressions of interest to redevelop the baths, a petition to save them from privatisation is gaining traction, receiving over 3,000 signatures in three days.  

Campaign Coordinator Jessica Miller said the campaign, Save Our Ocean Baths – Newcastle and Merewether NSW, was about sending a message to the council and state government.

“We would like more community consultation with how both pavilions, at Newcastle and Merewether Ocean Baths, are refurbished or restored,” she said.

“These places are important to the community; they are important to maintaining the character of the town, and we expect council to take that seriously and invest the dollars to keep them as they are to maintain Newcastle in the way that we currently love.”

At the beginning of the month, City of Newcastle called for expressions of interest to redevelop the iconic Newcastle and Merewether Ocean Baths pavilions in overhauls that could include restaurants, recreational and community facilities, and other services. 

Newcastle Ocean Bath’s iconic art deco exterior is proposed to be retained in any redevelopment, while new public change rooms, disabled access, car parking, new seating, shading and other community facilities will be mandatory inclusions at both sites.  

An artist’s impression of what Newcastle Ocean Baths may look like. Photo: GHD Woodhead

As well as reinvigorating the baths precincts, the council states final outcomes will promote access to the Bathers Way, preserve views from lifeguard and first aid rooms, and provide swimmers year-round protection from prevailing winds.   

Some 5,800 square metres of space is on offer at the Newcastle Ocean Baths, built in 1922, and 2,200 square metres at the Merewether pavilion under leases of up to 21 years. 

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the redevelopment was an exciting opportunity to enhance and rejuvenate Newcastle’s public assets.

“The City is committed to improving public and community spaces along our coastline, and a commercial partnership could allow us to significantly enhance and manage these precious facilities in a financially responsible way,” she said.

However, Ms Miller believed it was difficult to understand the reasoning behind what was happening and argued that the proposed plans would affect the appeal of Newcastle, stating they did not match the natural charm of the coastline.

She claimed the council had not spoken to the community to find out what they wanted.

Save Our Ocean Baths is hoping to bring the expressions of interest process to a halt.

Ms Miller said both the Merewether and Newcastle Ocean Baths hold memories and stories of Newcastle and believed the council and government should be working at restoring the infrastructure that already exists.

“[The campaign] will support whatever the community wants, and it would be great if the council had that same attitude,” Ms Miller said.

To sign the petition search, Save Our Ocean Baths – Newcastle and Merewether NSW at change.org or, for more information on the potential redevelopments, visit City of Newcastle’s website.

Expressions of interest for the baths’ projects will close on Tuesday 17 December at 2pm.

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