WE were sitting at our favourite outdoor Bondi beach coffee shop the other day when suddenly I felt a pair of sinuous, perfumed arms wrap themselves around my muscular shoulders.
At the time I was gazing out to sea checking the surf and naturally presumed the missus was overcome with an irresistible urge to embrace her ever-lovin’.
“Not here darl, bit public isn’t it,” I said.
“It’s not me darl,” she said, “looks like we’ve found a friend.”
Sure enough, this exchange was followed by a fit of feminine giggling and more hugging and squeezing of my rippling upper torso.
“She’s certainly taken to you darl,” said the bride with what I thought was more than a hint of wifely jealousy.
I looked around and there peering over the dividing wall between our tables was a rather attractive, heavily-made-up Japanese woman, nodding, smiling, grasping our shoulders affectionately, and pointing at several cameras in front of us being wielded by a group of her excitable compatriots.
“They must think we’re Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie, “ I said through gritted teeth but managing to wave and smile and nod to the phalanx of cameras.
Now being an old Bondi boardrider from way back, I’m used to being accosted by coach-loads of tourists on our iconic beach scrambling to get my majestic image on their I-pads/phones as I emerge from the tumbling gnarly swell clad in my full-length black and grey wettie and “creature-from Hell ” black rubber helmet.
“Don’t worry darl,” I explained to the wife, “these Asian cultures really respect their older and wiser generations.”
“Speak for yourself O Venerable Grey One,” she retorted, “I’m just thinking perhaps they should have asked permission from us first.”
After a few more bows and scrapes and much nodding and grinning, our group of admirers wandered off chattering excitedly and no doubt already downloading our suntanned Aussie images on to their networks of Instagrams, You Tubes, Facebooks, Twitters and Tweets.
Over the years, we old beach hands have become used to the daily invasion of our precious domain by the hordes of tourists and visitors. It wouldn’t be Bondi beach if we just had it to ourselves every day of the year.
Where would be the colour of the multitudinous costumes, the glamour of the backpacker brigades baring their pale flesh to the scorching antipodean blast-furnace skies?
But recently you may have noticed in the media, much unease, discomfort and rebellious mutterings have emerged from the normally placid ranks of the Bondi and nearby communities.
There is widespread alarm settling over the world’s most famous surfing beach and many feel there is a steamroller of change set to flatten the natural charm of the place for all time.
It’s Waverley Council’s much-discussed and much-feared 10 year development plan, the major plank of which seems to be to drive out the people who get the most enjoyment from the beach apart from the surfing community.
The joggers, surf swimmers, beach anglers, walkers, fitness groups, skaters, the buffed and the not so buffed, the wiry and the weighty, the Double Bay glamours in their glinting bling and designer boobs, all parading along this unique jewel in the crown of Australia’s east coastline.
Now at first glance, and to give them credit, the council has been trying to involve the community in this process of upheaval and it all seems on the surface at least to have some merit.
To show what I mean I’ll outline below what the council has posted on its website regarding this proposal: (my comments in parenthesis)
“Key features of the draft plan include:
- More toilets and upgrade of existing toilets
- Upgraded children’s playground
- More trees and shade
- Extension of the coastal walk to create a boardwalk near Bondi Icebergs
- Creating 15% more green and recreation space through:
- Pedestrianising (UGH!!!) Queen Elizabeth Drive
- Building an underground car park on Park Drive behind Bondi Pavilion (MORE OF THIS LATER!!)
- Roofing over Park Drive with green space
- Restoring the rear of Bondi Pavilion as the grand entrance to the beach
- Ensuring Bondi Pavilion is well looked after, a lively cultural and community hub
- A new beginners skate park (GULP!!!)
- An upgraded, bigger fitness station
- Replacing temporary facilities for Council Parks’ staff
- Re-alignment of pathways to improve access to the beach
- A shared pedestrian and traffic path along Notts Avenue.”
Now it all looks lovely and touchy-feely-greeny-communally hunky-dorey and we must be grumpy old NIMBYs to object to this “modernisation and going-forward to the future” for Bondi.
And-sure, many of the proposals have great merit.
It’s not until you get down to that nasty little item 2 of “creating 15% more green and recreation space” that you get to the nub of the matter.
Now what do those two seemingly innocent words portend? Does Waverley Council think we’re stupid and that the idea of the underground carpark is purely a vitally necessary upgrade of the existing infrastructure and “going-forward” part of the “beautification” of Bondi?
Does it mean beachgoers will have better and more convenient access to their favourite location?
Will it improve the lot of the many long-established businesses along the beachside promenade and will it help to maintain the traditional allure of Bondi’s golden sands and aquamarine swells?
Of course not!! It’s all about the money, as if you didn’t already guess!! The words underground carpark are the driving force in the council’s fiendish scheme to rort the community and destroy the famous beach frontage which has been the spearhead of the nation’s tourist trade for more than 100 years?
For underground carpark, read “subterranean goldmine”.
Now I know a lot has already been written about this latest abomination, but the gross inconvenience to not only surfers lugging boards but to all beach users trying to access the beach from a dimly-lit underground carpark (with its implicit safety implications) will be horrendous.
What next? Apart from the many atrocities already inflicted on the globally recognised Coat Hanger, will they drape the SydneyHarbourBridge with monstrous Harvey Norman or Westfield banners and turn one end of it into a Farmer’s Market or cuddly-koala souvenir shop?
They’re already seriously contemplating allowing “glamping” or glamour camping facilities for the tourist trade among the leafy, serene glades and stunning wildlife habitats of Centennial Park because the authorities claim the area is “underused”. Are they SERIOUS??
Does that ring the same bell with you about extracting as many bucks as they can from the very living breathing heart and soul of our wonderful city?
Sadly it’s not just Sydney which has fallen prey to the grubby hunt for callous monetary gain at the expense of our endangered and overpopulated environment. Even many of the Hunter Valley’s glorious green studs which have produced some of Australia’s greatest thoroughbreds, are about to be ploughed up and sold off for coal seam gas exploration.
I wonder who will be the major buyers of these precious assets of ours and are we, who have lived many years on this planet, and treasured and protected the gifts passed down to us, are being relegated to the ranks of the irrelevant and the whingeing whackos.
Don’t even bother answering that… Ah well, I’m off to Bondi now with my beloved longboard to catch a few of the day’s early waves then I’m meeting the major love of my life in Centennial Park for a picnic lunch.