Monday, November 22, 2010

Being part of the solution

Newcastle is going through some growing pains at the moment, with various developments continuing, not just around our beautiful harbour, but throughout the city. This hasn't been an easy task as every second person has an opinion about what development is appropriate. This debate has not been helped by what to do with the railway that runs from Wickham to Newcastle city and effectively stops development between the CBD and the harbour. It is such a polarising issue that has effectively split into two rival camps, the Save Our Rail group and the Fix Our City group.

While the railway is a major issue, neither group seems to be able to appreciate that there is other development that needs to be addressed. So last Saturday the Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) asked for volunteers to come down the Cottage Creek precinct to take part in a workshop to help the HDC with ideas on how the community would like to see the last piece of the Foreshore puzzle fashioned to link the whole project together, from Nobbys Beach to Carrington/Linwood Estate.

The former Cottage Creek site started life as a mangrove swamp and then following the settlement of Newcastle in the 1804, a convict farm was then started in the area (with a Government cottage built, thus becoming known as Cottage Creek), the cottage was located approximately on the site of the new KFC store in Hunter St . As Newcastle continued to grow so did the need for land, especially around the harbour and so progressively the area became one of Newcastle's prime industrial areas. Over the years the area became home to variety of industries including timber mills, fuel depots and finally Throsby Wharf with associated railway marshalling yards. In fact anything north between the railway and harbour became one vast ugly industrial complex.

That all changed in 1992 with the Building Better Cities programme and slowly, but surely, over the intervening 18 years the Newcastle harbour has been transformed from industrial scar tissue to a vibrant city meeting and living space.

Former Wickham School of Arts - 1881
That is not to say there hasn't been mistakes along the way and this is what the HDC is trying to avoid with its emphasis on community consultation in the Cottage Creek precinct development, hoping that it will instead become a show piece for the city of Newcastle. So along with around a dozen other community spirited citizens we spent a couple of hours touring the site providing feedback to HDC representatives, so they can use the information gathered to provide the guidelines  for the eventual rejuvenation of this last piece of the former industrial wasteland.

I also took the opportunity to grab the the Canon 400D to take some shots of the area prior to its transformation, so in a decade or so I'll be able to look back at the photo's and proudly say I was a small part of the process of transformation. Being part of the solution, instead of grumbling about the problems.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Achtung, deutsche Autos und Newcastle die besten

In most countries when you think Germany you think beer, sauerkraut, sausages and Oom Pah Pah music ... but not here in Newcastle. In Newcastle when we think German, we think cars and not just any car, but the iconic Volkswagen  Kombi. 

Borgward 1500cc Coupe
The Volkswagen Kombi became synonymous with the Australian outdoor lifestyle and  throughout the 60's and 70's, they were the campervan of choice as young hippies followed the surf around Australia's coastline. These days however the Kombis have, like their owners, aged gracefully and reflect a certain timeless beauty. However, the petrol powered Kombi slowly and quietly dropped out of favour with today's modern back packers  and 'grey nomads' for the newer flashier diesel models from Europe, 

The Kombi itself came in other variants other than the camper, with crew cab utes, panel vans and micro buses also figuring in the model line up, quite a versatile vehicle. On display down at the Foreshore today were all the examples of these quaint VW's from the 'day to day' commuter types, right through to the fully restored version and all were proudly displayed by their fastidious owners.

Lloyd Alexander TS 
To be fair, it wasn't just a KombiFest, nearly every type of German automotive heritage was on display, with Beetles, Porshe's, BMW's and Mercedes-Benz, all proudly being represented. The were even a couple of oddities like the NSU Prinz 30 (with a 2 cylinder 600cc engine producing 15kW), a Lloyd Alexander TS (a 2 cylinder 600cc, producing 18kW), two Borgward Isabella coupes and a Borgward Isabella saloon (all had a 1500cc engine, producing 45kW).

NSU Prinz 30
Also on display were the ubiquitous Beetles, as well as a beautifully restored Karmann Ghia that almost stole the show from the Kombis, with its timeless classic lines and flawless presentation, she was a real stunner. Another rarity, although not of German heritage, was a Lancia Delta HF Turbo, a model which dominated the WRC in the late 80's, early 90's and one I haven't seen for years.

Nearly every make and model of modern German motoring history was there, from the latest Mercs and Bimmers, nearly every variant of the Kombis, Beetles by the dozens and rare compacts, however one make was conspicuously absent ... the Audi's, which was disappointing.  
VW Karmann Ghia

Once again the Newcastle Foreshore park proved to be a wonderful place to wander around the exhibits in near perfect weather and talk to the enthusiasts in a relaxed atmosphere, but more importantly, being able to capture some of these wonderful cars using my Sanyo S1275 camera 

So if you are ever visiting Newcastle, although we might not have flashy theme parks, a stroll around our Foreshore can always bring something wonderful to look at and a place to relax for a few hours without paying a lot of dollars. A rarity in this day and age.

And make sure you bring a camera!

P.S. Although not typically German, the NRMA also had a wonderful display of some of their former vehicles, including 3 NRMA, the iconic HD Holden panel van (pictured above)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Things That Go Squish

One of the wonderful things about Australia is the extremes of weather that we can be sometimes be subjected to and this year our Spring is continuing this wonderful tradition. A tradition that was immortalised in verse by Dorothea Mackellar - in her poem 'My Country' with a stanza that is transcribed into every Australians soul 

I love a sunburnt country, 

A land of sweeping plains

Of ragged mountain ranges
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons 
I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

Last Spring was so dry on the Australian east coast we were hearing of houses cracking as the clay based soil under the houses dried up so much, due to the lack of moisture, it was causing the houses to shift on their foundations and the repairs were costing owners many thousands of dollars in remedial work to fix the cracked walls.

This Spring we are blessed as persistent showers continue to soak the ground, filling the dams and watering the gardens. However, as much as the wet weather is appreciated it does kind of make outdoor activities problematic, activities such as photography.

One of my big problems during these rain events is keeping the equipment dry and out of the wet weather. This means every shot has to be planned and executed, no 'point & shoot' in persistent rain. One of the advantages is consistent (if low) light levels, which negate shadows on the subject and funnily enough, reduces the use of the flash.

Newcastle itself,  is a city that prides itself on it's beach culture, with a central business district that is within a ten minute walk of some of Australia's best surf beaches and a wonderful dining culture along the harbour foreshore, the city does tend to recede into its shell during periods of continual wet weather. People tend to hustle along, avoiding the rain and not stroll along soaking up the wonderful views that are usually afforded by the harbour and beaches.

Even so, it was during one of our recent wet weather events, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, that I grabbed my good friend, the Sanyo S1275 camera and took a sodden stroll through our wonderful city and quite enjoyed the isolation that was afforded to me. Only the hardy and the foolish were to be seen on our beautiful city streets

Sometimes it is worth taking the camera out on days that are challenging, however, I must admit, the best part of the day was getting out of the rain and having a wonderful hot cup of coffee before heading home.