Heat wave rave 3.2.2011


I’ve been trying to think of the most beautiful places in town (as well as the most unpleasant). Send me a comment telling me your favourites – I imagine Laman Street, the coastline from Nobbys to infinity in both directions, King Edward Park, Blackbutt Reserve, Jesmond Park, anywhere that has a large Hill’s or Moreton Bay fig, the bike tracks at Lake Macquarie and Throsby Creek – and so on and so on. 

My favourite places all seem to be green but the built environment has some lovely examples of gorgeousness. I suppose some people find Honeysuckle’s new plastic and glass buildings, all built in a line – wasn’t that always the ‘problem’ with Hunter Street? –  pleasant. I wish there’d been a design competition for the privilege of creating something in a waterfront location.

The prize for the ugliest part of the lower Hunter Valley goes to the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group (NCIG) portion of Cormorant Drive on Kooragang Island. I was reminded of how much this road upsets me when I was reading a fig story about the suggestion that one of the other major roads into Newcastle be renamed and planted with new figs to go with the ones already there.

 NCIG missed a lovely opportunity when they put tiny trees on their buffer-zone mound. The trees there are too small to identify for a horticultural dilettante like me.

Did you know the chairman of NCIG  is Michael Egan? He was the longest-serving NSW treasurer.

Michael Egan is best remembered for his Bob-Hawke hairdo when he was younger his scare-mongering about (not) privatising the state’s electricity industry when he was in government. The dreadful dog’s breakfast of a power sell-off that has just happened in NSW is a Michael Egan legacy.

I’ve deprived myself of years of Mike Carlton columns in the Sydney Morning Herald because he wrote an article praising – yes, praising -Egan’s plans for giving away the farm. (You know how you argue with a restaurant or a retail outlet and threaten never to darken their doorsteps again? Well, I privately threatened Mike Carlton I would never read him again when he talked about how talented the then treasurer was, and I’ve only broken that promise once. Don’t tell him. It’s my loss, of course.)

ME said the sell-off was the only thing that would save NSW from certain disaster. Mike Carlton believed him. (There is a glossy description of his CV here – the media release when he became the head of CRINGE NCIG.) Anyway, I’m not sure if he’s doing to NCIG what he tried to do to NSW power, but the company is certainly not doing great things for Newcastle’s environment.

I have to assume that NCIG don’t place much importance on being the best possible corporate citizens. It was a requirement of the coal loader development approval that they build tree buffer zones to hide the coal piles. It took more than a year to build the mounds then the tiniest trees they could possibly find were planted on top of them.

I’m grateful for the contact I’ve had with some of the NCIG team who were involved in greening this area. The best will in the world can’t do much without resources. Presumably the budget they were allotted to make the area bearable for locals was the same size as the trees they put in.

If you have somewhere that would compete with this place for Ugly, send me a comment.

And from the supremely dismissive approach of a coal company to the wooden-headedness of a traffic engineer: here’s a 3.7 minute YouTube video about how not to make streets safe.

And so I don’t end on a sad or whiney note, here’s some happy snaps. Home.

A comment in the Herald this week lamented incorporating a 1930s hotel into a unit development but I like it.


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