Anna Bay All Abilities Regional Play Park escalates campaign for Iris Moore Reserve

UNPERTURBED: Coral Kearins stands for what she believes in. In this case an all-abilities playground at Anna Bay. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
UNPERTURBED: Coral Kearins stands for what she believes in. In this case an all-abilities playground at Anna Bay. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

A group of eager Anna Bay residents has gone ‘straight to the top’ to ask the Premier Gladys Berejiklian for the funds to make their vision for a regionally significant playground, accessible to all.

The proposed playground is already on the Port Stephens Council strategic plan for construction within 10 years but Anna Bay All Abilities Regional Play Park – an incorporated committee of seven members – is determined to make it a reality soon. The committee’s public officer Coral Kearins was at Raymond Terrace for the presentation of parliamentary commendations for her work on a different committee.

“Premier Berejiklian said ‘leave it with me’ and I took her as meaning that. I take her to be a genuine person,” Mrs Kearins said.

Once accustomed to the rigors of farm life, she hasn’t been one to back down from a challenge in retirement.

The Boat Harbour woman has been instrumental in coordinating out of school tennis lessons for children of all financial backgrounds, persuading business to sponsor the cause. 

Yes, she was forthright with Ms Berejiklian but with some humility.

“She was incredibly busy on the day and I might have been a bit polite in making my point. We shall see,” Mrs Kearins said.

Nearly two years in the planning, the vision for the park includes a large competition skate park, educational-themed pedal park, a large playground with wind and sun protection, four large climbing poles, exercise stations, barbecue and picnic facilties, toilets and seaside landscaping complete with koala fodder trees.

The proposed site is the Iris Moore Reserve, adjacent to the Scout Hall at 6 Fishermans Bay Road and 7 Birubi Lane, a gift to the community.

Paterson MP Meryl Swanson and Port Stephens MP Kate Washington are both said to have met on the site with committee and indicated their support. The committee has also canvassed support from mayor Ryan Palmer, as well as councillors Chris Doohan, Sarah Smith and Jaimie Abbott.

“This isn’t some airy, fairy dream. The council staff have started the process and we congratulate them for recognising the need for this. While it is on the strategic plan we need to move this onto the forward works list,” Mrs Kearins said.

Playgrounds are a sensitive subject in Anna Bay. The equipment at Robinson Reserve has just been removed ahead of a redevelopment of the park in March 2019 at a cost in excess of $1 million.

The council is amid discussions with the Worimi people, traditional owners of the site, concerning the final design. Mrs Kearins said it wasn’t a matter of one or the other.

“If the Worimi would like a skate park there, then by all means,” she said.

“What we’re proposing is a regionally significant facility. A 50-plus (competition standard) skate park that would attract tourism to the area and contribute to the economy.”

The council has budgeted $3.7 million to the Iris Moore Reserve plans with $150,000 in scoping funds to kick it off.

Mrs Kearins said it merely needed state government support.

“The Minister for Planning announced $290 million for garden and open spaces in April. The commitment is clearly there from the government to build and upgrade to better playgrounds,” she said.

Due to the large scale of the new park, construction would commence in stages, allowing the community and visitors to the popular tourist area to start enjoying the benefits sooner rather than later.

“Anna Bay residents have been patiently waiting for decades for the delivery of necessary infrastructure. Port Stephens Council has not kept up with the needs of the dramatically changing demographics of this booming area,” committee secretary Sarah Jackson said.

“We need our elected leaders to take the youth of our area seriously and urgently fund this wonderful community initiative.”

Port Stephens Duty MLC Catherine Cusack applauded the committee’s progress.

“It’s a very professional presenation and this park is something every one of us would like to do,” she said.

“It’s a matter of priorities.”

Ms Cusack stood with Ms Berejiklian in Raymond Terrace at the awards ceremony, where Mrs Kearins broached the topic.

“It’s the kind of thing the Premier appreciates, she welcomes it,” Ms Cusack said.

“Getting this funded is an application process, the budget’s already locked in place.”