Nobbys world-famous headland will be off-limits to the community as a result of funding cuts to Newcastle Now.
Thousands of tourists and locals have enjoyed the spectacular view from the lighthouse on Sundays for the past six years.
But the supervisor position, which allowed the site to be opened to the public, is among the casualties of a row between Newcastle City Council and Newcastle Now over the group’s purpose and administrative processes.
“It was a very popular part of our activities,” Newcastle Now chief executive Richard Christian said.
“We were looking at ways to keep it going but it is just not possible without funding.”
Nobbys headland was initially reopened to the public in 2011 and has been managed by Newcastle Now since 2013.
The site’s owner, the Port Authority of NSW, has terminated Newcastle Now’s lease on the site due to its inability to provide visitor services.
Newcastle City Council terminated its funding deed with the business improvement association on December 31 on the basis that payments to Newcastle Now had not been supported by business plans submitted by Newcastle Now, it had failed to meet standards of acquittal for projects since 2016 and inappropriately used the special rate levy funds for projects.
The council acknowledged the issues occurred before current executive manager, Richard Christian, commenced in May 2018.
The association is now mostly a volunteer organisation but still has a functioning board.
Newcastle Now has leased buildings at Nobbys since 2012. It helped restore the site’s dilapidated buildings, spending $180,000 and receiving about $300,000 in in-kind contributions.
The loss of public access to Nobbys also coincides with the demise of Newcastle Now’s vision to transform Nobbys into an “iconic tourist destination on par with Newcastle Memorial Walk and Fort Scratchley”.
The plans included an exhibition space, outdoor exercise equipment and play area, viewing decks, a café and a restaurant with conference and catering facilities.
The organisation secured a $500,000 grant from the Newcastle Port Community Contribution Fund for the $1.5 million project in 2017.
A spokeswoman for the Hunter-Central Coast Development Corporation said Newcastle Now’s Community Contribution funding deed came to an end by mutual agreement in September 2018.
“The full amount was reallocated to Round 4 of the fund, which was awarded in October 2018,” the spokeswoman said.
“Newcastle Now remains eligible to apply for future Newcastle Port Community Contribution funding.”
Mr Duc said the collapse of the tours and the redevelopment project was a tragedy.
“We were in the process of organising tours for school children,” Mr Duc said.
He said Newcastle Now had also hoped that the redeveloped site would generate income which could be spent on projects to help revitalise the city centre.
A Port Authority of NSW spokesman said the authority would consider issues related to security and public access while the future use of the premises is decided.
“In the meantime, Port Authority is open to discussions for future utilisation of the premises, including single use applications, with the aim of creating community benefit from this iconic site,” he said.
The landmark has had a varied and colourful history ever since Captain Cook described it as "a small clump of an island lying close to shore" from aboard the Endeavor in 1770.
But it was not until the discovery of coal by Europeans in 1797 that the island was considered economically significant.
High-profile Newcastle restaurateur Neil Slater tried for eight years to create an eatery, accommodation and a viewing platform at Nobbys before former federal environment minister Peter Garrett rejected the plan in 2008.
Mr Garrett listed his decision to oppose a development on Nobbys as a highlight of his political life in his 2015 memoir Big Blue Sky.
He described his intervention as a saga that generated "hate mail in both directions".
Mr Garrett wrote that his use of federal environmental laws in 2008 meant "Newcastle residents didn't have an eyesore on their most prominent headland".
Mr Garrett's decision went against conditional support for the project from his own departmental staff and full public backing from Labor politicians, including MPs Sharon Grierson, Joel Fitzgibbon and Greg Combet and former Newcastle lord mayor John Tate.
Although not mentioned in the book, Mr Garrett subsequently decided that a small version of the development did not need federal approval.
But restaurateur Neil Slater eventually pulled the pin on the plans, saying they were no longer viable.