Lake Macquarie council has stalled a plan to have the iconic Catherine Hill Bay jetty included within the township's heritage curtilage.
The council voted on Monday night to defer providing a letter of support to Catherine Hill Bay Progress Association's proposal to have the curtilage of the state-listed Catherine Hill Bay Cultural Precinct extended to incorporate the jetty "pending clarification of facts and wider impacts".
The association's request for council's support came after it received advice from the Office of Environment and Heritage, which indicated the curtilage extension may be a better way of securing heritage recognition for the jetty than the interim heritage order the association was applying for.
A staff report prepared for the development and planning standing committee meeting had recommended supporting the proposal as not doing so would be "inconsistent with council's previous support" for the interim heritage order.
Cr Christine Buckley, who originally spoke in favour of providing the letter of support, said it was "going to cost a lot of money to rehabilitate the jetty" but including it in the precinct "may enable someone to come forward and fund works".
Cr Kevin Baker moved an amendment to decline the request and questioned how widely supported heritage listing the jetty was.
He said as the association did not allow members from a new estate in the suburb, the proposal might not be supported by all.
Cr Jason Pauling, who seconded the amendment, said "not supporting at this point in time does not mean people are anti-heritage" but ensured further information could be obtained.
"We've been talking about the jetty for a long, long time," he said. "Is this the best way forward? I don't know.
"Not supporting it keeps our options open."
Questions were raised about what restrictions the heritage status would have on future development, and whether it locked council in to providing financial support for any revitalisation.
Staff said it did not and that the land-based section of the jetty was already within the heritage precinct.
Cr Baker's amendment was defeated by mayor Kay Fraser's casting vote, but Cr Pauling proposed a second amendment, which eventually unanimously passed, to defer a decision "pending clarification of facts and wider impacts" in consultation with the association and other stakeholders.
"I don't know if this is time critical [but] it's appropriate the matter be deferred," he said.
The association wants to investigate adaptive reuses of the 240-metre jetty, either in whole or in part. The existing Delta-owned structure has not been used since 2002.
The jetty, built for loading coal onto ships for transport to Sydney and Newcastle, has been rebuilt twice since it was first constructed in 1873.