BIRUBI Point will host a tourism interchange after the state government pledged $5.4 million towards the project on Friday.
The Gan Gan Road site at Anna Bay is a “game-changer” for the town, Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer said.
“Birubi Point Aboriginal Place is the best piece of coastline in Australia, and this funding will ensure we can enjoy and protect it for many years to come,” Mayor Palmer said. “Over the years, the number of visitors to this beautiful place has grown exponentially — causing traffic chaos and putting increasing pressure on the environment and Aboriginal heritage and cultural values of the area.”
“This tourism interchange will be carefully designed to alleviate these issues. It will become the gateway for visitors to enjoy the Worimi Conservation Lands however they choose — four-wheel drive, quad bike, horse or camel ride, surfing, fishing, or just a stroll on the beach.
Port Stephens Council community services co-ordintor Steve Bernasconi said the announcement followed years of groundwork behind the scenes.
“This funding announcement is the culmination of seven years of hard work by the community and Port Stephens Council,” Mr Bernasconi said.
“Many people have been involved in coming up with a solution that will create a unique visitor experience and improve the lives of locals, while respecting the value and significance of this incredible place,” he said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve been able to achieve here so far, and for what’s yet to come.”
The proposed design includes 50 car spaces, 10 coach parks and a drop-off zone that can accommodate two coaches.
The interchange includes more than 1300 square metres of covered space, public toilets and a kiosk.
Duty MLC Catherine Cusack said the $5.4 million from the government would come from the Growing Local Economies fund.
“This fund is specifically designed to invest the crucial projects which are needed to support job creation and economic growth across regional New South Wales,” Ms Cusack said.
Jaimie Abbott, a Port Stephens councillor and Liberal candidate, said 15 per cent growth in visitor numbers over the past two years had ramped up the pressure to deliver the project.
“Stockton Beach and the Worimi Conservation Lands is internationally recognised for its incredible Mars-like landscape and is a popular destination for outdoor recreation and tourism like 4x4 driving, fishing and surfing. Even tours by vehicle, horse or camel,” Cr Abbott said.
“The massive growth in visitor numbers is fantastic for our local businesses. However, the recent increase in vehicle traffic across sensitive Aboriginal lands has led to ecological damage and stress for local residents with unregulated visitor traffic congestion in James Patterson Street, Anna Bay.
“85 percent of people accessing the area, some 220,000 every year, are doing so by off-road vehicle access from the Birubi Point Aboriginal Place entrance. The Interchange will create a well-designed, integrated information centre and gateway to Stockton Beach for sand dune tours and recreational users,”
“We need jobs for our youth in Port Stephens. Investment that helps grow employment opportunities for locals through supporting our small businesses to grow is extremely welcome in our community,”
The plans have been designed by CHROFI and McGregor Coxall.