Friends of Tomaree Headland float idea for floating pontoon with access to a ferry service outside Tomaree Lodge

SPECTACULAR: The Tomaree headland and Tomaree Lodge which could one day be used as a marine education and research centre, according ot Friends of Tomaree Headland. Picture: Supplied
SPECTACULAR: The Tomaree headland and Tomaree Lodge which could one day be used as a marine education and research centre, according ot Friends of Tomaree Headland. Picture: Supplied

A floating pontoon with access to a ferry service in front of the Tomaree Lodge site at Shoal Bay could be a solution to the parking and traffic problems being experienced at the entrance to Tomaree Head.

Friends of Tomaree Headland (FoTH) coordinator Peter Clough has floated the concept with Port Stephens Council of reinstating a jetty, in addition to a toilet block, water station, more garbage bins and better signage.

Mr Clough believes a floating pontoon, so ferry services could be used for transport, could go a long way towards addressing the parking and traffic management issues, particularly once the new $6.7 million Tomaree coastal walk is established.

"If we can receive council and community support we can lobby for funding for a floating pontoon, estimated to cost between $200,000 and $300,000."

He added there was merit in sourcing funds for a scoping study for the future of the waterway and Tomaree Lodge, seeking professional advice on the eventual transfer of the site into public hands.

"Maybe a working group should be established to identify potential uses and direction to be considered by the community."

Both Liberal and Labor have pledged to keep the 9 hectare Tomaree Lodge site in public ownership once it has finished its role as a disability residential centre.

The council's communications manager Steve Bernasconi said council and FoTH were working with National Parks and Wildlife Service in planning for the coastal walk project, including the expected increased demands on public infrastructure.

"Suitable toilets, watering stations, car and bus parking and waste facilities all fall within this work," he said.

"A new jetty for Shoal Bay would require a business case detailing extensive community engagement, approving agency engagement, environmental considerations, benefits and costs plus a funding model for capital costs and ongoing maintenance."

According to long-time Port Stephens tourism operator Frank Future, from Imagine Cruises, a timber-structured jetty - probably built during the war - was used by both private and public charters before its removal about 15 years ago after falling into disrepair.

"I would support a floating pontoon," Mr Future said.

FoTH is also proposing a marine education and research centre on the site, which is equipped to accommodate people with a disability.

Member Iain Watt said that an education centre could provide the facilities, accommodation and opportunities for school students to experience and learn about the marine environment; while a marine research centre would provide residential research facilities for university students and researchers in areas of marine biology, marine ecology, marine chemistry, oceanography, and coastal geography.

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