For 52 years, the Brunswick Surf Club has stood, little changed, as countless storms and scorching summer days battered and bleached its fading walls.
Now, after a decade of planning, lobbying, and fundraising, the life savers are within swimming distance of getting approval for a big, shiny new building that will change the spot forever.
The development application (DA) for the multimillion-dollar facility is expected to come before Council soon and the club is quietly hopeful that it will be approved.
‘We can see the finish line… we can almost reach out and touch it,’ says Ray Linabury, chairman of the club’s rebuilding committee.
‘Once Council approves our DA, we can access the funding from government and we’ll be off and running.’
In the leadup to the March state election, the NSW coalition promised to fund the $3.8m rebuilding project in full, and it subsequently included the project in its June budget. This funding cannot be accessed until the DA is approved.
The rebuild represents a total transformation of the site from a tiny, traditional surf club designed to house ropes and a couple of row boats to a multipurpose facility more than three-and-a-half times the size in terms of floor space.
It will include a function area complete with commercial kitchen, bar areas, training rooms, storage, canteen, cool rooms, and deck areas on the upper floor.
‘We are going to try to get into the wedding market,’ Mr Linabury says.
‘Byron Surf Club has two or three weddings in a weekend, and the income they generate allows for better facilities and equipment.
‘The club plays a key role in a number of community programs, events, and activities, all of which are funded through membership fees and fundraising.
‘If we can get a bit of extra income from hiring out the club, then it makes those activities that much easier,’ Mr Linabury says.
But not everyone is in favour of the development in its current form.
Some residents have expressed reservations about the size of the new club.
Others fear that the additional traffic generated by having large functions such as weddings will make it impossible to find parking, especially during the warmer months when hundreds already flock to the beach from across the Northern Rivers and beyond.
Club president Craig Reid said every effort had been made to address community concerns. ‘We had a bit of an issue with the dog walkers being concerned that they wouldn’t be able to access the beach, which we’ve now rectified,’ he said.
‘This isn’t going to be a Gold Coast-style surf club, with heaps of alcohol and poker machines.
‘But we want to have a building that will serve the club and the community for the next 20 to 30 years.
‘We’ve got so little storage we’ve got members storing equipment, trailers, all kinds of stuff at their homes’.