Fury over toilet block demolition

More than 75 residents met on Sunday, January 3, to protest Central Coast Council’s abrupt decision to demolish a popular public toilet facility at Hardys Bay.

The 5pm protest came as a result of an unexpected announcement that the facilities at the Araluen Dr public wharf were to be flattened.

Council notified the President of the Hardys Bay Residents Group of the decision on December 16 via a snail mail letter.

Council said in the letter that the decision to demolish the site rested on four factors: the age of the building exceeds 34 years; the building is in poor-condition with damaged timber and cladding; the facilities are unable to meet disability access requirements; and the amenity is not regularly used.

President of the Residents Group, Adrian Williams, said he disagreed with Council’s rationale, but noted that the location didn’t allow for disability access.

“The age of the buildings would in any other circumstances (see them) heritage listed,” Williams said.

“As Council have been negligent in maintaining the buildings, it is not surprising they need some work to bring them back to [a] pristine condition.

“It is unfortunate the (toilets) do not comply with handicap requirements, however (with) the location at the water’s edge and at the bottom of a steep rise, it would be difficult to completely comply.

“In respect (to) minimal use, the community is not aware of any Council surveys to establish this.

“The toilets are constantly in use – they are used by picnickers, walkers, people exercising, tradesmen, boaters and the public in general.”

In collaboration with the Killcare to Wagstaffe Community Association, the Residents Group has put forward a counter proposal to Council, asking for the facility to be upgraded with disability access, and rebuilt in the same materials as other existing facilities around the Bay.

However, a Council spokesperson said due to the four existing toilet facilities located within a 2.8km stretch around the bay, the removal of the Araleun Dr toilets would not significantly affect the community.

“Council takes its responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the five toilet blocks in the area seriously, however the Araluen Dr toilets have reached the end of their usable life,” the spokesperson said.

“The two timber toilets at Araluen Dr are believed to have been constructed in the 1960s.

“The two other toilet facilities in the area are of similar age but are a different construction – brick rather than timber.

“Council cleaning staff attend the site daily and monitor usage by cleanliness, and consumables’ consumption.”

Community members were outraged that Council had not provided any community consultation about the future of the 56-year-old facility.

Hardys Bay resident, Ann Pederson, said she was shocked by the decision and wants the facilities to be retained and upgraded.

“If the toilets are demolished, people caught short will relieve themselves publicly on the foreshore reserves,” Pederson said.

“(It’s) not only hazardous to public health but comprises a punishable offensive conduct offence under NSW law.

“Council’s threatened removal of essential public toilets will force people to break the law.”

The Residents Group also maintains the toilet block provides a valuable asset in supplying potable water when the residential water main breaks in the area.

It is recommending Council look into installing a fire hydrant connection for firefighting in case the large water main breaks at a time of crisis.

However, a Council spokesperson said the idea wasn’t viable.

“Toilet blocks are not viable as a potable water supply when main breaks occur, they are connected to the same main as residents in the area,” the spokesperson said.

“This applies to fire hydrants which are also generally connected to the main water supply.”

Maisy Rae