ONCE again, a government authority is holding out the hope that one of the Hunter's premier attractions, Nobbys headland, will be permanently reopened to the public.
As was the case back in 2003 - when restaurateur Neil Slater's consortium was chosen in an ill-fated bid to commercialise the site - the lighthouse building and the signal station are not part of the deal.
Visitors to the headland will be able to walk around them, as now, but there is no intention, it seems, to open them in any way.
Rather, the Port Authority of NSW is seeking a new use for the three cottages, recently restored, and the surrounding open space.
It says possible uses include "a café, restaurant, kiosk, eco-tourism facility, port and maritime interpretative centre or museum, as well as a local history, cultural or community facility".
Before we get too carried away, surely the main reason to visit Nobbys is the extraordinary view?
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Perhaps the first thing to do is to ensure that people can get to Nobbys seven days a week, enjoy the scenery, and have something to eat if they wish.
We should remember that one of the reasons that the port authority's predecessor, Newcastle Port Corporation, wanted Nobbys opened the first time around was to offset the cost of maintaining the buildings.
Slater's consortium was reportedly the only bid not wanting a government subsidy, but his proposal was always a compromise between the necessary size to make things stack up financially, and the heritage and other limitations on the site.
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By its own boasting, this state government is far from broke.
Having leased the port of Newcastle for $1.75 billion, there is surely enough money left over after Revitalising Newcastle to contribute some of the costs of a simple kiosk or cafe as a starting point, with minimal if any alteration to the building footprint.
Something larger, if justified, can be explored down the track.
As for the oft-cited safety concerns, a number of NSW lighthouses - including the immensely popular Cape Byron - already manage similar isolation and difficult geography without too many problems.
Indeed, when the port authority talks about the "steep and restricted access, limited services and comprehensive planning and heritage requirements" at Nobbys it could easily be talking about Cape Byron.
If such difficulties can be solved there, they can be solved here.
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