The local news year in review – 2021

Central Coast - 2021 news in review

As 2022 begins, we take a look at the biggest news stories on the Coast over 2021.

January

The year started off with a bluebottle plague across the region.

Residents were showing concern about a 10-15 per cent rate rise mooted by Central Coast Council.

The Environmental Protection Authority hit back at claims by Member for Gosford Liesl Tesch that there had been a drastic reduction in licence inspections over the last two years, saying inspections had been impacted by bushfire recovery and COVID restrictions.

Residents protested a proposed caravan park development for the old Bangaloe Stud site at Kincumber after a DA for an over 55s retirement village was knocked back for the location.

Meals on Wheels volunteer Paula Hardwick was named Central Coast Citizen of the Year.

Acting Council CEO Rik Hart defended the projected rate rise as he outlined the Council’s financial recovery plans and a developer continued to fight for approval to add a sixth level to a controversial development in Church St, Terrigal.

The Local Planning Panel rejected a proposal for Mt Penang Parklands for three fast food outlets and a vehicle repair business.

More than 200,000 people flocked to the region’s beaches over the Australia Day weekend, with 168 recues carried out.

Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock extended the role of Council Administrator Dick Persson for three months until the end of April, with councillors to remain suspended.

Suspended Councillor Greg Best said if the Council were to be reinstated after that time it should offer a public apology to ratepayers for the financial mess which led to an administrator being appointed in October, 2020.

Brazel Moore Lawyers in Gosford celebrated 40 years of practice and former Gosford Mayor Lawrie McKinna was appointed Chair of Regional Development Australia Central Coast.

Concrete pouring began on a 41-unit social housing development in Beane St, Gosford, as concerns about housing shortages on the Coast escalated.

February

Dozens of angry ratepayers gathered outside the Gosford chambers to protest the proposed rate hike.

Stage two of the Central Coast Conservatorium refurbishment began.

The region’s Labor MPs called for more social housing with the waiting list topping 3,000.

Council Administrator Dick Persson floated a referendum to reduce councillor numbers to nine.

Coast Living appealed the rejection of an over 55s retirement village on the old Bangaloe Stud site, with a second application for a caravan park on the site still in play.

Staff cuts continued at Council as four director positions were culled.

COVID-19 restrictions began to ease.

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was at Terrigal to call for the cancellation of the PEP 11 offshore drilling permit due to expire on February 12.

After months of silence on PEP-11, Member for Robertson Lucy Wicks announced she would oppose renewal on the very day of Albanese’s visit.

Council announced it would apply to IPART for a 15 per cent rate rise despite ratepayer opposition.

The Leagues Club Park opened at Gosford more than two years after it was announced.

An assessment was conducted on the Empire Bay boatshed as its future hung in the balance.

A BMX track upgrade commenced at Terrigal.

A petition calling for a judicial inquiry in Central Coast Council reached 20,000 signatures.

Residents were gobsmacked to learn rates in the former Gosford LGA could rise by 42 per cent due to rates harmonisation in addition to the 15 per cent SRV.

Former Gosford Deputy Mayor Keith Whitfield passed away at the age of 83 and aged care nurses on the Coast rallied to demand more government support for the sector.

March

Premier Gladys Berejiklian opened Leagues Club Park in Gosford as new Council CEO David Farmer took the reins.

Pressure mounted for an inquiry into Council, with Member for Terrigal Adam Crouch saying a judicial inquiry was not likely and a public inquiry was the most likely scenario.

The Community Environment Network (CEN) claimed Council’s draft Mountain Bike Strategy was flawed as it went on public exhibition and The Greens called for de-amalgamation of Council.

As exploration on erosion solutions for Wamberal Beach continued to divide the community, Administrator Dick Persson admitted Council had no money for any of the proposed moves.

Almost 500 women marched along the Gosford waterfront in support of the March4Justice movement against gender-based violence.

Hymix Australia copped fines totaling $23,000 for alleged contamination of Kincumber Creek but community activists claimed the amount was “woefully inadequate”.

Another link for the shared pathway at Davistown was announced.

More COVID restrictions were relaxed with people now allowed to stand up and drink at venues.

Breakers and Niagara Park stadiums hosted the Junior Premier and Eastern League competition launch.

A state of natural disaster was declared on the Coast after a week of torrential rain and Council’s Status of Women Advisory committee had a reprieve from being merged with other committees.

Heavy rains highlighted contamination issues at Kincumber Creek with Hymix saying sediment washing off the poorly maintained Cochrone Rd was to blame.

April

A huge cleanup was undertaken following the damaging storms in March with a variety of strange things washing up on Coast shores, ranging from furniture to pumpkins and even a cow.

Sara Lee notched up 50 years on the Coast and restrictions were further eased.

Calls continued to be made for an official inquiry into Council and animal activists protested the Camel Races outside Gosford showground.

Greater Sydney Commission outlined its keys to growth for the region in its Central Coast Strategy.

Terrigal boardwalk was opened with a fanfare by the Premier.

A $110M development in John Whiteway Dr, Gosford, was scaled back after objections were received and Central Coast Leagues Club’s $442M redevelopment plan moved to the next stage of consideration as a State Significant Development.

There were reports Manchester United was in talks to buy the Mariners and relocate them to Sydney.

The Local Government Minister ruled out a judicial inquiry into Council and calls continued for a decision on the PEP11 permit.

The next stage of the upgrade on the Bouddi National Park walkway began.

Housing prices continued to soar and community activists rejected proposed amendments to the over 55s lifestyle village proposed for the old Bangaloe Stud site.

Tascott high jumper Nicola McDermott made history by becoming the first woman at the 2021 Australian Championships to clear 2m.

Local Government Minister Hancock announced Council’s administration period would be further extended, with former acting CEO Rik Hart to replace Dick Persson from April 30 and elections postponed for a year with a public inquiry to be held into Council.

Thousands attended Anzac services on the Coast after last year’s ceremonies were cancelled due to COVID-19 and a possible rezone for Gosford waterfront was mooted to open up more development.

May

New Council CEO David Farmer opened up about his goals in the job and suspended Councillor Chris Holstein said the decision to leave councillors suspended would end his 30-year political career.

The Indigenous-Aboriginal Party of Australia announced it would seek registration prior to the next Federal election with opposition to a proposed Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council development at Kariong one of its main campaign issues.

A proposed rezone of Gosford Bowling Club land put an all-abilities bowls program at risk.

Dick Persson farewelled the Coast as his tenure as Administrator ended.

Construction began on a revamp of Narara Skate Park and a DA for the Central Coast Quarter development at the southern end of Mann St, Gosford, drew mixed reactions.

It was announced a new university campus would be established in the old Mitre 10 building in Mann St and Gosford Race Club hosted the Inaugural Coast Race Day, the first metro meet at the racecourse.

IPART approved the 15 per cent rate rise, comprising the 2 per cent cap and a 13 per cent Special Rate Variation (SRV), for three years only.

The community of Spencer called for more help from all levels of government in times of natural disaster after being cut off by bushfires and floods over many years.

Calls grew for the removal of shark nets amid claims other sea creatures were being injured and the Central Coast Air Show attracted 15,000 visitors.

The $217M Northside Private Hospital at West Gosford was approved as a State Significant Development.

June

Asset Energy called for tenders for offshore drilling equipment with no decision on the PEP11 permit renewal made.

Calls for Gosford Bowling Club to be taken off Council’s assets sales list ramped up and support for the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill due to be put to State Parliament in July grew.

CEN called on Council to exclude sensitive community lands from its asset sales list and more than 50 people conducted a mass clean up at Avoca Beach in honour of World Ocean Day.

The Mounties Group announced it was in amalgamation talks with Breakers at Wamberal and a $115M hotel proposed for Racecourse Rd, Gosford, was under consideration by the NSW Planning Department.

Nurses and midwives rallied outside Gosford Hospital calling for better nurse to patient ratios and 10 Coasties were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

A Local Planning Panel decision to refuse a four-lot subdivision incorporating the Springfield Wetland was applauded by residents and Ourimbah firefighter Peter Purfitt was named Rural Fire Service Association’s Member of the Year.

The proponent of the contentious development in John Whiteway Dr lodged a reply to submissions but CEN said suggested modifications did not go far enough.

Mariners Head Coach Alen Stajcic and Assistant Coach Nahuel Arrarte stepped down as the team bowed out of the A-League season in an elimination final.

Fragments of COVID-19 were found in the Brooklyn Sewerage treatment plant as lockdowns continued.

Coast Environmental Alliance criticised Council for not prosecuting a resident who illegally cleared environmentally sensitive land at Kariong

Residents of Presbyterian Aged Care at East Gosford were rattled when the facility was put on the market.

Construction of the Clinical School and Research institute in the grounds of Gosford Hospital was completed and Matt Simon signed on for another year of A-League with the Mariners.

July

The Central Coast went into lockdown as the Delta variant of COVID-19 impacted case numbers and the Pfizer vaccine was in short supply, with younger people urged to opt instead for the more readily available AstraZeneca.

Council looked at using sand from Sydney Metro West Tunnel project to re-nourish Wamberal Beach and mooted plans to apply for the three-year SRV granted by IPART to be extended.

More and more facilities were closed as lockdown looked like being extended and Hymix continued to deny responsibility for pollution of Kincumber Creek.

The Local Planning Panel rejected the application for a sixth storey on the controversial Church St development at Terrigal and mandatory QR code check-in was expanded.

Labor MPs came out opposing an extension of the SRV and it was revealed the Council CEO earns almost as much as the Prime Minister and more than the Premier of NSW.

Kariong was in mourning as a five-week-old baby was killed by the family dog.

Lockdown was extended until the end of the month.

Confusion reigned over the regional status of the Coast with lockdown rules including it with Greater Sydney and a house at Avoca Beach sold for $7M as property prices continued to explode.

Non-essential retail was shut down as fears emerged the lockdown would extend beyond July and Labor MPs called for a mass vaccination centre in the region.

Lockdown was extended until the end of August and a referendum on the number of councillors on Central Coast Council mooted for September was deferred.

Construction activity on the Coast resumed at the end of the month with strict COVID protocols.

Young Gosford sailor Miles Greenwood won the 57th Sabot Nationals at Townsville.

August

Nicola McDermott qualified for the Women’s High Jump Final at the Olympics, taking out the silver medal and breaking her own previous record.

Coast residents were furious when some of the region’s Pfizer supplies were re directed to Sydney high school students.

Council received funding for the first stage of a walking trail around Terrigal Lagoon and Greater Bank and Newcastle Permanent, both with branches on the Coast, announced they would merge.

The Local Planning Panel once again rejected an over 55s retirement village on the old Bangaloe Stud site.

Coast COVID numbers began to climb and there were calls from the community to retain the old Kariong Skate Bowl even after a new one is built nearby.

Council invited community comment on five seawall options for Wamberal Beach, with thousands of residents remaining adamant a seawall was not the right solution for ongoing erosion problems.

There was some hope of an end to lockdown when the Coast was separated from Greater Sydney with respect to Public Health Orders as case numbers continued to rise in the region.

Businesses began to agitate for speedier delivery of COVID relief measures as restrictions eased for the doubly vaccinated.

Concerns emerged about a Development Control Plan for the Peat Island precinct expected to be released soon.

A shortage of GPs was highlighted and pressure mounted on Resources Minister Keith Pitt to deliver a decision on the renewal of the PEP11 permit.

CEN called for IPART to hold off on any decision regarding extension of the SRV until after the public inquiry into Council ended and there was opposition to a proposal for a disability housing project at North Gosford.

As the Paralmypics got underway in Tokyo, Coasties were rooting for local competitors, archer Peter Marchant and canoeist Dylan Littlehales.

September

COVID cases on the Coast continued to rise as Pfizer supplies dwindled and residents of Presbyterian Aged Care at East Gosford continued to be concerned over their futures as sale of the facility proceeded.

Central Coast Animal Care at Erina was given notice to vacate as Council consolidated animal care for the region at its Charmhaven facility.

Central Coast lifesavers took out seven state awards at the Surf Life Saving NSW Awards of Excellence.

Lockdown was extended yet again and staff at Council’s Gosford Chambers were put on notice for a pending relocation to Wyong.

Residents at East Gosford Presbyterian Care breathed a sigh of relief with the news they would be able to remain in their homes, with the facility being sold to a social housing provider.

Bells at Killcare lodged an application to expand its number of rooms and add a wellness centre.

A roadmap was revealed for bringing the Coast out of lockdown.

The Mariners announced they will enter a women’s team in the W-League in 2022-23.

The State Government granted $900,000 for Australian brewery Bearfarm to expand its operations to the Coast and the Dan Murphy’s site at West Gosford was listed for sale.

The Central Coast Mountain Trail Bike Alliance called on Council to provide sustainable off-road cycling infrastructure as it cracked down on illegal trails and jumps.

A three-month consultation period on plans for the redevelopment of the Peat Island precinct began amid concerns over a proposal for 270 homes to be provided adjacent to the island.

COVID case numbers on the Central Coast topped 500 since the emergence of the Delta variant.

Major intersection upgrades were announced along Manns Rd.

A new exhibition period opened for the first tower of the Central Coast Quarter development in Mann St, Gosford.

October

With residents still reeling from the 15 per cent rate rise, the news came that they could face a 34 per cent rise in water rates next year, with Council lodging a submission to IPART.

Meanwhile, Council appealed to residents to support moves to see the 13 per cent SRV extended for an extra seven years.

The long-awaited public hearings for the inquiry into Council hit a technical glitch in their first week, with transcripts of witness statements published before online hearings resumed the following week.

Before public hearings concluded on October 20, the inquiry heard from CEO David Farmer, Chief Financial Officer, Natalia Cowley, Administrator Rik Hart and former Administrator Dick Persson, along with all 13 suspended councillors and two former councillors.

COVID restrictions began to ease on October 11 after 15 weeks of lockdown and Dr Gordon Reid announced he would contest the seat of Robertson for the Labor Party at the next Federal election.

Hundreds of Coast workers rallied in opposition to State Government “no jab no job” policy and comments were invited on a major roundabout upgrade at Tumbi Umbi.

The applicant appealed a rejection of a sixth storey on the Church St, Terrigal, development and the controversial project in John Whiteway Dr Gosford, was approved as a State Significant Development.

The Central Coast Lakes Festival returned with a new expanded program and the Federal Government’s announcement of its intention to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 was described by Member for Dobell Emma McBride as a “major letdown”.

Eight playspace upgrades were announced for the region and the Federal Government was called out for lack of action on $30M pledged for more commuter carparking at Gosford during the 2019 election campaign.

Central Coast Leagues Club reported a profit of just over $3.5M for the 2020-21 financial year.

November

The new Regional Youth Support Services (RYSS) office was officially opened in Gosford.

After finalising redundancies for hundreds of works, Council announced it was about to establish 72 new permanent equivalent positions.

The Conservation Ark facility was opened at Somersby and further freedoms were announced for residents who had received two COVID vaccinations.

Terrigal Beach was the only Coast waterway to receive a Poor rating in the 2020-21 State of the Beaches report and it was revealed rents on the Coast had risen by up to 30 per cent over the past year.

The Coast sporting community was in mourning over the death of cricketing great Alan Davidson and thousands of people all over the Coast celebrated Remembrance Day on November 11.

A three-year campaign by residents saw a $4.3M upgrade of footpaths at North Avoca announced by the Federal Government and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was on the Coast again to reinforce that a Labor Government would put an end to PEP11.

A second “no jab, no job” protest was held at The Entrance and Hotel Gosford reopened following an 18-month renovation.

A new community group was formed to fight the proposal for housing development in the Peat Island precinct.

The Wamberal Beach Save Our Sand group continued to oppose a seawall at the popular beach and $9M road upgrades were completed at Copacabana.

It was announced State Government money allocated for the removal of weeds from a Council-owned portion of Springfield Wetlands would also be used to clear the privately owned section and affordable housing emerged as a hot issue in the lead-up to the next Federal election.

The Central Coast Steam Model Co-op in Showground Rd, Gosford, was targeted by vandals and the State Government committed $8M to build 200 new stables at Gosford racecourse and two Directors left Council in a leadership “refresh”.

December

A $100M TAFE campus and housing development was proposed for the centre of Gosford, with Council in talks with the State Government over the purchase of the chambers building and surrounding land parcels.

As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 made its appearance on the Coast, Premier Dominic Perrottet reinforced that restriction easing for all would proceed on December 15.

The Australian Reptile Park was named Business of the Year by Business NSW and Tascott made a list of the 20 most family friendly suburbs in NSW.

Hundreds of the region’s teachers joined statewide strike action seeking better pay and reduced workloads, the State Government unveiled its Regional Plan for the Central Coast and nurses and midwives protested staffing levels outside Gosford Hospital.

An announcement by Premier Dominic Perrottet that the Coast was to be included with Greater Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle in a “six cities” vision was criticised by Labor MPs.

An announcement made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the Federal Government would write to relevant authorities putting an end to PEP11 was met with some scepticism.

The IPART Chair advised that more than 2,000 submissions had been received on Council’s proposed 34 per cent water rates hike, the overwhelming majority opposed.

The Indigenous-Aboriginal party of Australia announced that Jeff Lawson would replace Tracey Howie as its candidate for Robertson in the Federal election and Council proposed cutting its meetings from twice a month to just once per month in a cost-cutting measure.

Council announced it would push ahead with a Mountain Biking Plan for the region, despite divided community opinion, and the Dine& Discover voucher program was extended.

A sand, soil and building materials recycling centre at Somersby was approved by the NSW Government despite hundreds of objections, and construction began on the Vue Mer housing development on Henry Parry Dr, Gosford, which will comprise two 15-storey towers.

CCN

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