WHERE the dilapidated buildings of Fort Wallace have sat empty for years, their owner Defence Housing Australia is trying to inspire a vision of a new community.
Since taking ownership of the Stockton site last year – along with the Fern Bay Rifle Range for a planned 300 housing unit development – Defence Housing has seen the cluster of buildings targeted constantly by vandals.
A private security firm is contracted to the site, but the World War II fort’s heritage observation tower and gun placements have been scarred by graffiti.
Several other buildings on the site’s lower tier are in near-ruin, but Defence Housing development manager Gully Coote said some could be restored into community assets.
A wooden-floored recreation hall, presently littered with leaves and random relics such as an old typewriter, could become a community centre, Mr Coote said.
The tower, likewise, with its unique view of both Stockton’s beach and its bridge, could be turned into an office for a community group.
“There is a significant heritage value here,” Mr Coote said.
“The site’s historic elements will be preserved, and the local jobs during construction will bring significant economic benefits.”
Based on statistical criteria from the Urban Development Institute of Australia, the number of direct jobs from development and construction on both Stockton sites could be as high as 1180 directly, with 2150 indirect jobs.
Defence Housing has carried out specialist studies of the sites, canvassing their heritage, traffic, and environmental considerations.
The body is openly and visibly consulting residents before it lodges planning proposals with Newcastle and Port Stephens councils.
A guided tour of Fort Wallace this week gave interested locals rare access to elements of the historic site, such as a Norfolk Island pine planted in 1949 in memory of deceased Gunner Mervyn Hoban.
On the tour was Fort Scratchley Historical Society president Frank Carter, who said Fort Wallace had deteriorated significantly since he had last seen it.
“It’s a lot different, now,” Mr Carter said.
“It’s a shame, but that’s what happens.”