Karuah RSL Club earmarked for a $6 million' modernisation'

RENOVATION: Karuah RSL CEO Ross Parr in front of the iconic club located on the Pacific Highway.
RENOVATION: Karuah RSL CEO Ross Parr in front of the iconic club located on the Pacific Highway.

For nearly 50 years, through the good times and the bad, the Karuah RSL Club has stood firm, acting as the "heartbeat of the community" and playing an integral role in disaster relief and the coming together of residents.

The iconic building located adjacent to the town's only traffic lights on the Pacific Highway has been instrumental in providing a safe haven during floods or bushfires, hosting community meetings and caring for its people in a time before social media and when public places were key to disseminating information.

The Karuah Bypass - a 9.8 kilometre dual carriageway upgrade of the Pacific Highway which cut traffic from the town centre - of 2004 was particularly difficult for the town's business community.

LOOK BACK TO 2014: Karuah RSL secretary manager Steve Pell and director Paul Gallagher at Karuah with plans for the RSL club's upgrade in 2004.

LOOK BACK TO 2014: Karuah RSL secretary manager Steve Pell and director Paul Gallagher at Karuah with plans for the RSL club's upgrade in 2004.



Some businesses closed up shop - most notably two service stations and the Karuah Hotel - while others have struggled in the years through a downturn in trade.

But there has in recent times been a renewed confidence in town led by the Karuah RSL which is undergoing its first renovation in 15 years.

The club has been earmarked to receive a $6 million makeover, to be constructed over two stages.

"The RSL club is the community hub of Karuah, it has been there in times of disaster and it is where most things take place... events such as Anzac Day, Christmas carols, the oyster and timber festival, just to name a few," said longtime Port Stephens west ward councillor Paul Le Mottee.

"Ever since I was elected I have made it one of my priorities to improve the town's economic standing by talking up the town to business people and it is rewarding to see things are now happening.

"To see the club grow and expand is a great sign for the entire Karuah community."

Karuah RSL CEO for the past eight years, Ross Parr, is equally enthusiastic about what he describes as the "modernisation" of the club building and facilities.

"We are literally swinging the club around. Stage one will see the existing main bar demolished and shifted to overlook the newly sited bowling green and Karuah river, a new cafe to compliment the existing restaurant, complete with al-fresco dining," Mr Parr said.

"We will be opening a new function room to cater for the corporate market with 200-seat capacity and that could easily be converted into theatre-style meeting/conference rooms.

"The outside will be modernised to take on a timber-facade design and the war memorial will be upgraded."

Mr Parr said that stage two would include a complete rebuild of the bowling green, and the redevelopment of the carpark.

Port Stephens councillors last Tuesday night voted to approve a planning proposal to rezone the carpark land to allow for its expansion.

Often referred to by locals as the heartbeat of the town, the new-look club - which has in excess of 5000 members hailing from the wider Port Stephens, Myall Lakes and lower Hunter regions - is hoping to boost its staff numbers from 20 to 30.

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