Eight high profile Port Stephens community organisations have banded together with the aim of preserving the vast Tomaree Headland, commonly described as one of the most visually spectacular and unspoiled parts of the entire NSW coastline.
While the Friends of Tomaree Headland (FoTH) was formed to provide a strong voice to uphold the historic, cultural, marine and tourism value of this natural paradise, it has also adopted as part of its agenda the opportunity “to secure the future of the iconic Tomaree Lodge”.
FoTH convenor Peter Clough said that there was an urgent need for a vision for the future of the 37.5-hectare headland as a whole, and the lodge as a unique entity due to its impending closure.
“We have formed a prospectus, or masterplan, which would see the headland transferred into a nationally significant tourist attraction while maintaining its heritage and historic value,” Mr Clough said.
“The breathtaking views from the summit, the World War II heritage and the strategic location all offer a unique opportunity to grow our tourism appeal.
“Some of the [lodge] buildings could be used as a visitor interpretative centre with audio visual and interactive exhibits, celebrating the area’s war history, marine life and cultural heritage.”
Mr Clough said that the envisaged improvements including increased car parking and upgraded public amenities would complement the $6.7 million state government coastal walk upgrade, announced in June 2018, for Tomaree National Park.
FoTH comprises representatives from Tomaree Business Chamber, Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch, Destination Port Stephens, Port Stephens Historical Society, Shoal Bay Community Association, Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association, EcoNetwork Port Stephens and Marine Parks Association.
RSL president Tom Lupton said that the headland played an important role in the defence of Australia during the Second World War.
“It became the focus of Australian-United States combined training operations for the South-West Pacific and many of the wartime structures remain, including gun and torpedo emplacements and buildings which housed administration,” he said.
“It is vitally important that we don’t allow this valuable community and cultural asset to fall away.”
Representing Marine Parks Association and Destination Port Stephens, Frank Future said that transforming the lodge buildings into a cultural, marine interpretive centre to complement the growing number of eco-tourism attractions made a lot of sense.
“This could include a marine recovery centre to help treat the injured wildlife including local populations of dolphins and turtles right on our doorstep,” he said.
Dennis Corr, president of the historical society, saw the educational value to local and tourists alike, saying it was imperative that the asset be maintained with a view of passing on the historical significance of the buildings and walking heritage trails to the public.
Also on board is tour operator Escape Trekking Adventures, which has been operating walking and education tours on Tomaree mountain since 2015.
Manager Shane Goodwin said that the proposed transformation would likely swell the number of visitor numbers above its current 100,000 a year.
Mr Clough said the group also aimed to initiate a program to restore and protect the headland, establish a working party to consider its future management and development possibilities at Tomaree Headland, protect and restore war relics, and to strengthen the appeal of the Tomaree Peninsula as a strategic tourism hub.
Mr Clough said that the vision for the masterplan would be presented to both state and federal government departments.