Raymond Terrace neglected in Australia Day celebrations, says Port Stephens councillor Giacomo Arnott

MEDAL PRESENTATION: Cr Giacomo Arnott presents Nelson Bay's Nigel Waters with his medal at the 2019 Australia Day civic awards ceremony. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
MEDAL PRESENTATION: Cr Giacomo Arnott presents Nelson Bay's Nigel Waters with his medal at the 2019 Australia Day civic awards ceremony. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

A debate has ensued over a decision by Port Stephens Council to change the venue for the 2021 Australia Day civic ceremonies from its traditional Raymond Terrace home to Medowie.

West ward councillor Giacomo Arnott, who failed in his attempt to have the matter debated as an urgent motion at the December 8 meeting, has slammed the council decision, claiming that council had, once again, put Raymond Terrace at the bottom of the priority list.

"Our town is neglected when it really matters."

However, fellow ward councillor, deputy mayor Paul Le Mottee, could not see what all the fuss was about.

"It makes sense to me for the council to conduct a single ceremony, instead of two, in the middle of a pandemic. Raymond Terrace will continue to host its three or four citizenship ceremonies a year at the council chambers."

The council this week confirmed that the celebrations - comprising annual award presentations and citizenship ceremony - would be moved to the council-funded Medowie Social centre.

A council spokesperson said that due to COVID-19 restrictions, the celebrations at Medowie "will only be open to award recipients, conferees and councillors".

"We are trying to spread our events across all of Port Stephens to enable more of our community to participate. Medowie is a central location ... Raymond Terrace won't miss out - locals are invited to our all-day pool party where they can cool off, enjoy a barbecue and play giant pool games."

But the move has angered Cr Arnott, who said that the community of Raymond Terrace would be losing a decades-long tradition.

"For decades on January 26, Raymond Terrace has hosted the main civic celebrations for Australia Day in Port Stephens. Annual award winners are announced, new citizens are welcomed, and locals turn out in force to celebrate," Cr Arnott said.

"In 2021 council decided to move the ceremony to the $6.5 million council-funded, privately-run Medowie [Social]. I completely support a ceremony being held in Medowie, but it can't be stolen from Raymond Terrace, the Port's civic, economic and cultural centre.

"Council can't use the excuse of COVID-19, because if a ceremony can be held in a COVID-safe way at Medowie, then it can be done at Raymond Terrace."

"Raymond Terrace businesses will rightly be fuming at this decision. The council is saying that it wants to promote events and economic activity in Raymond Terrace. The consolation prize being offered to Raymond Terrace is a pool party, so our hardworking community groups and elderly volunteers are being told to take a dip."