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Letters May 2016

By Dan Hutton on May 17, 2016 in Other


BONDI PAV REVAMP

I have submitted numerous commentaries concerning the works to Bondi Pavilion. I have also attended meetings to hear the views of Council, the public, and the specialists. I have viewed the proposed plans.

My primary view, which has not altered over time, is that the proposals do not rely on an overarching vision, and this is leading to a highly compromised proposal, which alienates most of the stakeholders. It is also clear to me that the public feels highly disenfranchised by the current proposals.

I do not believe that the two sets of needs are at odds with each other, and I believe that a solution that maximises both objectives is possible. It appears to me that the present ‘solution’ is largely an attempt to satisfy various piecemeal objectives, and is largely failing on all counts, and of course the brief is critical in formulating any outcome.

Bondi Pavilion is really a tripartite entity. It has a strong relationship with the local population, it is a Waverley Council icon and responsibility, and it remains a substantial New South Wales and Australian destination, which ‘belongs’ to the big picture.

Unless all three of these stakeholders are properly incorporated in the solutions, there will be conflicts and a dilution of any quality solution.

1. Big Picture Objective

My view is that Bondi Pavilion must have a ‘mission statement’ and my prior suggestion is that the Pavilion becomes a social, musical, entertainment and activity focus, which is receptive to the three stakeholders above. On any given weekend, there should be a festival, a market, an event, a concert… something that encompasses attractions for both locals and the important tourism sector.

With current technology, it would be easy to establish an audio/video stream to the Internet to have events broadcast throughout the world, with the ‘Bondi’ brand being invaluable.

There should be financial and broader support from the New South Wales Government, and New South Wales Tourism, and not a sole reliance on ‘user pays’ funding and council subsidies.

There should be a vibrant nightlife in Bondi, such as a more sophisticated nightclub showcasing national and international acts. I have often heard from tourists that they are so disappointed that iconic Bondi has virtually no international evening drawcard such as this. There is parking, which could be made free later in the evening to facilitate patronage.

2. Conservation

I am an architect, with long-standing connections to heritage and conservation principles. Some years ago I was the architect for the upgrades to historic ‘Brougham’ in Woollahra. Virtually any project in a conservation domain will require a balance of ongoing usage versus conservation. Unfortunately, these can be at odds, but I do believe that the Bondi Pavilion should follow a set of principles.

Although much loved, the building has been altered considerably over its lifetime. Not all of the building has high conservation values, and in reality, not particularly ‘high’ values (as an intact building may have). The cost of preservation and conservation is very high with the stringency of regulations that now exist.

I propose that it is not money well spent in attempting to preserve and conserve many of the elements of the Pavilion. For most people, the iconic colonnades, and a number of the external elements, are really the most significant, and this should form the focus of the conservation elements. Beyond that, I see little merit in conservation and restoration as such, unless it forms an important part of the matrix of the upgrade.

In the late 1950s, there was uproar when a tram shed on Bennelong Point was slated for demolition. There is little doubt that the replacement building brought a wealth of cultural and financial benefit to Sydney and Australia.

Bondi Pavilion, although iconic, stands at a crossroad between cultural and financial benefits and pure conservation. There is a timely and historic point in time where visionary decisions could be made, or a grand opportunity lost. At present, I see the latter as prevailing.

3. Community

The community has strongly voiced its needs, with a number of principles emerging, including the need to preserve small flexible spaces for classes, meetings, etc; the need to be inclusive and not exclusive for the majority of access locations in the Pavilion; the need to supply specialist spaces in the Pavilion, in particular, music and performance rooms, for both rehearsal and for presentations. Many children progress their creative trajectories via the facilities offered by the Pavilion.

I propose that these objectives are not difficult to fulfill, and that there is significant crossover in the broader needs for performance spaces. The community has made it clear (and the present restaurant lessee has reinforced) that there is a need for more informal usage patterns, rather than fine dining or private function rooms, which are well catered for elsewhere. Equally, function rooms are highly flexible spaces that can be used for a multiplicity of events, particularly if sub-divisible.

4. Design flaws

A number of design flaws flow from the factors already mentioned, however, one that appears highly dysfunctional to me is that the current plan proposes the establishment of outdoor landscaped zones within the courtyard areas. I find this to be a significant flaw in the proposal.

The council has spent significant sums in the upgrade to the huge appurtenant landscaped areas of the beach. Further landscaped areas are not needed. The walled area should be developed to supply purpose built activity zones, such as markets, concerts, film festivals and events, with careful consideration to indoor/outdoor convertibility and the ability to hold a cross-section of functions under a variety of weather conditions. To supply a new landscaped courtyard, particularly with large trees, will limit and define activities in a most unfortunate and obstructive way.

Conclusions

The present design strongly suggests a desire to please a diverse audience, but in reality, alienates almost all parties. This is not because some of the usage elements are poorly targeted, rather, the execution is not well considered, and lacks a holistic focus.

The need for an overarching view is essential, as this will clarify the brief, and there is not a great disconnect between community use and a larger appeal to national and international users. The high tourism stakes also will provide a significant opportunity for revenue based activities for the council, in a much more meaningful way than, say, the mere renting out of a restaurant or function room.

The focus will become having a skilled and engaged management team that can properly drive ‘the Ferrari’ (which the Pavilion could be) rather than leasing out a clapped out ute now and again. This can leverage Council revenues, which can go towards the community subsidies that are still vitally needed.

There should be a shift from extensive conservation values to supplying far more relevant building that can serve into the future rather than preserving a rather variable past.

Gary Kurzer, Bondi

BONDI PAV REVAMP A RUSE

In 1932 in Bondi, a new open-air auditorium – “Australia’s greatest open-air theatre” – opened to the public. Where in Bondi, you ask? The proscenium arch at the rear of Bondi Pavilion, that’s where. In 2016, heritage architects, under instruction from Waverley Council, have decreed that it should now become the main entrance to the Pavilion (getting rid of the existing open-air theatre – bye bye Flickerfest).

If this seems like a non sequitur, that’s because it is. Council’s GM Cathy Henderson tells us that this has nothing to do with the proposed underground car park that was so resoundingly rejected by the local community in their last round of consultation.

Why have it then? To create a wind tunnel? To improve access to the convenience store at the top of the hill?

No, Council don’t want us to join the dots here, but this is all about setting up the infrastructure for an underground car park at Bondi Beach.

Andrew Worssam, Bondi

BONDI JUNCTION APARTMENTS’ CLOSE ENCOUNTER

To the Editor of The Beast,

High-rise apartment blocks in Bondi Junction are being built far too close to each other: some are almost touching! In some parts, there appears to be only a 6cm gap between the old and the new buildings. One new black building is sitting right on the balcony of the older one next to it. This confirms Bondi Junction is really f***ed. Bring on some sense Randwick, and take this Council’s development over ASAP.

Michael Lakeman, Bronte

COUNCIL RESTRICTIONS NOTHING NEW

Most old people will tell you history repeats itself. You know the classic Victoria Bitter poster with the surfing man? It looks quite ordinary, but the backstory is something else.

The man on the board is one of the Hilton brothers, long time members of North Bondi Surf Club. His name is Bill Hilton. There is another poster of a bloke drying himself with a towel. That one is Jim Hilton.

In the early 1930s, while wearing exactly the same swimming trunks, the Hilton brothers were thrown off Bondi Beach for breaching Council regulations. Unbelievably, this was done by their good friend, Beach Inspector Aub Laidlaw. A stickler for regulations, he did this because they were not covered up to the armpits back and front, and the side measurements for the lower half of their costumes were not the regulation 12 inches (that’s 30cm) at the sides. Aub measured them.

Fashions first altered in Melbourne in 1938, when the bottom half only became acceptable. There is a famous Sam Hood photo of several young men on Bondi Beach laughing and staring at Cyril McShine’s daring backless – that’s right, backless – costume. That was in 1932 when wearing such gear was considered daring and scandalous.

Bill Hilton’s late widow, Laurel, a pioneer woman member of the North Bondi club, told me the story.

John Ruffels, Bondi

DUMP THE SPEED BUMPS

Hi there,

I would like to complain about the three speed bumps that the council has installed at each of the exits of Eastgate car park (in Bondi Junction). These are placed after you have been through the ticket barrier. They are hideous! I have a bad back and after bumping over those things it certainly didn’t help matters. God help you if you’re at the beginning or the end of a pregnancy, aged, disabled, or have a young baby or active kids. It’s a real shake, rattle and roll experience.

I have written to Waverley Council and basically they have said ‘tough’. They are there as a deterrent to speeding or inconsiderate drivers, and to protect pedestrians who don’t look!

Whilst I understand the reasoning behind applying a slowing down system and agree that a deterrent should be in place if this is causing accidents, three speed bumps is a bit over the top. I think they need to look at alternatives, or cut it down to one speed bump.

I’m grumpy.

Sharon Tucker, Randwick

FIXED EASTER, PLEASE

Dear Beast,

Your columnist, Rupert Truscott-Hughes, rightly points out the slovenliness of the purported ‘religious leaders’, who are still dithering over a fixed date for marking Christ’s crucifixion. This might explain the confusion in our supermarket chains, where Christmas decorations and Easter buns are thoughtfully available for only three months of the year.

John Ruffels, Bondi

TOO MANY LICENCES

Always enjoy Kieran Blake’s take on the stupidities of the day. They say all great satire is close to the truth, so you will be glad to know that all surf patrol IRB drivers are meant to have a licence on them at all times while operating on the water.

Brent Jackson

MONARCHY AND MURDOCHRACY

In a letter to the Southern Courier (Feb 16, 2016), Adam Krslovic writes, “the British have treated Australia with respect and integrity”. From a historical perspective this might be problematic as a brief look into history will show. Even before Captain Cook reached Botany Bay, one of his sailors died. Perhaps the treatment of sailors on British ships included too many respectful but harsh working conditions, topped up with rotten food and stinky water, and spiced up by the whip, as the ‘Mutiny of the Bounty’ shows. Coming onshore, the full respect of the British was also given to the original people of Australia, when Aboriginals were treated under the hallucinogenic ideology of ‘terra nullius’. They were respectfully derecognised as flora and fauna – the empty country. Meanwhile British respect was served to the unwanted surplus labour back home, shipping them half around the world, often in shackles and leg-irons – with British respect!

And naturally the British admiralty always treated Australian soldiers fighting their wars with respect and integrity as the movie and book ‘Shoot Straight You Bastards!’ shows, as well as the target practicing of Turkish troops in Gallipoli where Australians briefly occupied a beach only to get shot one by one until they left with no military gain for those who had sent them there with respect – the British admiralty.

More recently British respect also extended to putting up signs in English language that Aboriginals could not read in Britain’s atom bomb testing areas in Australia. Their radioactive dead bodies – men, children, women, entire families – were bulldozed into the ground – with respect and integrity.

But the respect even extends to the Queen herself hardly ever bothering to turn up on the official Queen’s Birthday in Australia. Virtually the same applies to Europe’s longest-term unemployed person – Prince Charles – waiting since seventy years for his job to come up.

Finally, even I received a lot of respect from the Oxford educated British upper class when telling them, “I am going to Australia.” Their reply was: “What do you want there? There is nothing; only sheep and kangaroos.”

Perhaps after all that it is more than time to say goodbye to a nation that treated Australia with disrespect and resentment. After putting up with this for over 200 years, it is time to become a republic.

The original letter to the editor was submitted to the Southern Courier but was not printed. As I had many letters in the Southern Courier, the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Beast, the City Hub, and the Bulletin, over time a certain pattern emerged with the Southern Courier. There is slight suspicion that anything critical and against the ruling elite isn’t published. Perhaps this is how propaganda works: one prints letters in support of the monarchy and eliminates critique (see above). The picture that emerges to the unsuspecting mind is that the British monarchy has been good to us.

This is in a country where the Murdoch Press owns 70% of all newspapers, including the Southern Courier. Perhaps it has something to do with the owner of the newspaper liking the monarchy! One of Australia’s most eminent journalists, John Pilger, calls it Murdochracy, because it is neither the truth that emerges nor a free and frank exchange of ideas. The cards are stacked. The democratic public domain has been downgraded to a playground for one man’s whims, likes (the monarchy) and dislikes (the republic). Thankfully, there are still a few independent and critical journals and magazines left with the backbone to stand up.

Thomas Klikauer, Coogee

‘SEA LIFE’ STILL GETS MURDERED

Dear Beast,
It must have seemed like a great idea to Dan Trotter and his mates – over the third or fourth bottle of red – to rebrand ‘seafood as ‘sea life’. But if you’re really going to pay respect to the awesomeness of fish, then how about just leaving ‘sea life’ in the f**king ocean? You can’t have your (fish) cake and eat it too: you’re either a carnivore preying on marine life, or you’re not. Lecturing people on “love of the ocean and the animals that live in it” and then going out and hooking those animals in the mouth before killing/gutting/eating them seems like the height of hypocrisy.

Sian Melmont

SEA LIFE, SUSTAINABILITY, UNDERSTANDING AND CONSERVATION

Dear Sian,
Thank you for your letter. It is great that you also share a strong passion for life in the ocean. I love your conviction, but not so much your black and white view of the world.

Upon reading your letter I can only assume that you must be a vegan and that none of the plants that you eat come from land that was clear-felled for agriculture.

Is this the case? Are you a herbivore who eats only wild grown plants, fruits and vegetables that you have foraged yourself from the earth? As this is impossible in the modern Eastern Suburbs world we live in, I feel I can safely assume that this is not the way you live your life. Apologies if I am wrong.

All pokes aside, I’d like to keep this discussion open and honest. I hear your thoughts and would wholeheartedly agree if I didn’t want to eat sea life, but I love eating fish, molluscs and shellfish fresh from the ocean. I also feel very strongly that eating sea life and having a strong connection and the utmost respect for all living things are not mutually exclusive – is this what you feel?

In all my years of spending time on and in the ocean and out in the bush, I have found that it is most often the people who engage in sustainable ‘take’ practices such as fishing and ‘catching’ sea life who are the most in tune with the natural cycles of life, and also the most passionate custodians, protectors and educators of the very ecosystems they take from.

I appreciate that you may not like that we can see the world in ‘fifty shades of grey’, and that education and awareness of where our food is coming from is central to the future conservation efforts in the oceans. But you cannot ignore the fact that education and awareness are the only things that can change the future plight of the oceans and the life within them.

Remember that most people have become removed from the fact that the sashimi, fish fillets or prawns they are eating come from the wild and not from a packet. Awareness is essential to any hope of maintaining any level of biodiversity in the oceans. Please also understand that my little suggestion that people be aware they are consuming ‘life’ is a simple small step towards this.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that I only eat what I catch. I do not purchase commercially caught sea life, I do not order sea life in restaurants and I believe my efforts to only eat sustainable sea life are about as good as anyone can every hope to get.

If you still feel that my comments and actions place me at the height of hypocrisy, and that attempting to make more people aware of where their seafood comes from is also hypocritical, then I’d like to hear more from you. Perhaps we can even have a live-streamed panel discussion on Facebook? I’d love that!

Dan Trotter, Bondi

I DON’T LIKE PLASTIC BAGS

Dear Editor,

It’s always good to read an alternative point of view (‘I Like Plastic Bags’, The Beast, Letters, April 2016) and the author is correct that the original article didn’t clarify it meant plastic ‘shopping’ bags.

The Blue Bondi Green initiative, as a community sustainability project, is trying to reduce the number of single-use, fossil fuel-derived plastic shopping bags handed out for free by Waverley retailers each year.

Whilst the original article was necessarily brief, there are many reasons to say ‘no thank you’ to these shopping bags. With more than 10 million plastic bags used across Australia each day, over 18% of the litter found around Waverley each year is plastic, with a fair proportion of that being plastic bags.

Whereas bottles or containers may float when washed into the ocean, plastic bags may clog drains, release toxic additives such as plasticisers and antimicrobials into the environment as they break down, and harm or kill marine life such as turtles or dolphins. A recent study of over 370 marine autopsies found that one in three leatherback sea turtles have plastic in their stomach, most often a plastic bag.

It was good to see the letter’s author list all the ways in which he reused plastic shopping bags, as reducing demand, reusing where possible and otherwise recycling are all great goals. But the letter’s take-home message was that the author wanted a continued source of free fossil fuel-derived materials to throw into landfill, rather than taking the time, effort or money to source economically, socially or environmentally preferable solutions. That’s a shame, because there are so many degradable, biodegradable, starch-based, paper, cloth or calico alternatives. If bags must be thrown into landfill, it’s far better that they biodegrade quickly and easily than contaminate the ground for many years.

And it’s always interesting to see the words “feel-good, green, left-wing, dictatorial agenda” in a letter; usually these words are only used by bigoted, ageing zealots found somewhere to the right of Oswald Mosley on the political spectrum, but I wouldn’t be so judgmental to take such a wild stab in the dark without getting to know someone, or the long-term improvements they hope to see for their community.

Robin Mellon, Bondi

PLASTIC BAGS AREN’T THE PROBLEM

Plastic bags from supermarkets are the perfect rubbish-bin liners for little bins in bathrooms and kitchens. Plus they can be scrunched up in a ball and easily stored and re-used for countless other needs, i.e. wet cossies in the car and keeping other things dry.

Our area should declare war on PET (plastic) bottles and those humans who don’t dispose of them correctly or leave the air in them, hence they blow and often float away or clog the bins.

Overall, the worse litterers seem to be many McDonald’s consumers, Coke drinkers and other plastic bottle users. Plus, of course, many smokers. Please wake up!

Dimitri, Clovelly

PLASTIC NOT FANTASTIC

I was left speechless by Peter Kingston’s letter about plastic bags. So I am sending a pic of a turtle about to swallow a plastic bag instead of getting into a slanging match with Mr Kingston. All he has to do is Google ‘turtle with plastic bag’ to find some pretty sickening pictures of turtles dying or dead from mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish. He could also get himself down to Bondi Beach early one evening and help my sister pick up all the plastic crap along the shoreline. This is after Council has cleaned the beach every morning.

J. Ebner, Bronte

WAVERLEY COUNCIL A JOKE

Dear James and Dan,

I really enjoyed the two-page satire spread (page 42-43, The Beast, April 2016). It was good to see Waverley Council joining in the fun. The Mayor’s Message on ‘local government reform’ was a classic. After three years of promoting a Woollahra/Waverley/Randwick merger with a token community consultation at the last minute, the mayor now says that amalgamation won’t make a difference: “Our commitment to our community and the delivery of our services will remain the same, whatever the makeup of the future Council.” Brilliant.

Anonymous, Bondi

YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS

Dear Beast,

I laughed when I finished Anna Cook’s tenth commandment: ‘Thou Shalt Not Take Life Too Seriously’ (Letters, The Beast, April 2016). She clearly hadn’t been following her own advice as she crafted the first nine!

I propose we make ‘Thou Shalt Not Take Life Too Seriously’ the one commandment for living in the east. I’m a relatively recent arrival to this wonderful, beautiful, and inspiring area. I’m too busy loving the beaches to worry about who wears trackies to Westfield or Yummy Mummies. Anyone else feel the same way?

Caleb, Coogee

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