Gary Opit, Yelgun.
Gold Coast relatives invited us to view the new renovations at Pacific Fair shopping centre and we obliged, hoping to get an impression of the future of Byron Bay.
Decades ago on rare occasions we had visited Pacific Fair with our children, who enjoyed the little tram ride around the large water lily lagoon, surrounded by a couple of streets of frontier-style local shops. Beyond that were two-level shopping arcades and department stores.
At that time a large brightly coloured open area had been set aside for children encircled high above by a metre-wide train line with an engine and carriage that carried fibreglass figures of comical animals. We dined in a cafe on an island with a large timber water wheel, revolving and splashing, surrounded by colourful goldfish.
In that same location I had played as a child in the 1950s and 1960s before the caravan park was built and then replaced by the shopping centre and casino. My brother and I explored the forests, crossing the wetlands on fallen paperbark trees, walking to the quiet beaches through groves of ancient giant banksia trees and cypress pines.
The large lagoon and children’s playground has now been filled in and replaced with multi-level shopping arcades, but a sliver of open space has been retained. An arcade-width of imitation grass and shallow rectangular tiled water features with lounge chairs in pavilions, which resemble prison cells, timber and rope replacing iron bars, are the new playground. People were sitting within them enjoying the splashing of the imitation waterfalls.
Children were still evident. Several small groups of a dozen ten-year-old girls were following women on what may have been some kind of a school outing. All were well mannered and fashionably dressed in hot pants and wearing small amounts of tasteful makeup. They were earnestly viewing the window displays of exclusive and world famous international brand names featuring $50 knickers and $3000 handbags. Air-conditioning kept the simmering heat of early winter away and the sound of traffic muffled the breaking of waves of the coral-dead Coral Sea.