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Council outsources Bald Hill vision

Bald_hill

Competing demands: busy Bald Hill.

By HEATHER SMITH

INTERNATIONAL consultancy firm ARUP has been appointed by Wollongong City Council to conduct focus groups on the future of the tourist drawcard, Bald Hill.

The engagement follows the negative reaction to plans unveiled by council officers last September which included a 24-seat kiosk and upgraded toilet amenities at the iconic site.

The incoming councillors agreed the proposal was inappropriate and removed the Bald Hill Draft Master Plan from exhibition.

At last night’s Neighbourhood Forum 1 meeting in Helensburgh, Council’s Recreation and Open Space project officer Steve Maidment said planners had learnt from their mistakes and would “engage with the community, be respectful and have shared visions” for the site.

He admitted, however, the appointment of ARUP created resentment and the “fellows in-house felt a little bit burnt by the process” but he realised council had a credibility problem.

“It will be a great learning experience for council,” Mr Maidment said. “Yes, it will cost money but it will make us a better council and make us more responsive to community needs.”

Questioned by Stanwell Tops resident Warwick Erwin about $50,000 set aside in the current budget for toilet maintenance at Bald Hill, Mr Maidment said the funds would be used for painting, new partitions and to appoint a security company to lock up the toilets at night.

“The vandalism problem up there is huge,” he said.

Mr Maidment said one of the “amazing” aspects of the ARUP consultancy was the use of interactive mapping where anyone wishing to comment on the uses for Bald Hill could zoom in on an area and add their notes.

“From April 18, you will be able to put comments on what you like, what you don’t like and what you’d like to see happen on the site,” he said.

A mail-out to engage the “silent majority” would coincide with this technical innovation while information kiosks will be held at the CWA Hall on May 4 and on site on May 5.

A group of key stakeholders, including community representatives, hanggliders and paragliders, tourism bodies, business chambers and governments, will meet for a second “charette” in June, before presenting its findings to council later this year.

“Everything’s off the table,” Mr Maidment said. “There are no pre-judgments about what the site should be like.” 

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