Anyone who has been to Avoca Beach on NSW’s central coast will know what a quaint and picturesque seaside village it is. Lovely beaches, rock pools, surf club, sleepy seaside atmosphere, even a historic picture theatre to complete the scene. I personally happened to be there last weekend and was quietly amazed that such a peaceful and lovely hamlet can still exist so close to our major city Sydney in this day and age. Now all that is about to be ripped apart as Avoca Beach Picture Theatre owners Norman and Beth Hunter plan to launch their 1951 single screen theatre into the 21st century, with a 5-screen 615-seat multiplex monster along with cafe, gallery and apartment block containing 5 units over 3 stories. A big sea change from the existing old time theatre; residents say too big, and vow to fight the Development Application. Rightfully so, as this will dramatically reshape their little village into a modern metropolis, a change that many who live here don’t want to see.

Charming seaside theatre, for now

Several years ago Owners Norman and Beth Hunter bought an adjoining block of land and managed to get it along with the Theatre rezoned to allow mixed use commercial and residential. “Lodging this development application has been a 10 year journey,” Mrs Hunter said. “Now the time is right to get the DA through.” The proposed floor space ratio of the DA however exceeds council zoning regulations by 14 percent and the height exceeds regulations by 1.52m. They have sweetened the deal with Gosford Council by offering to pave the carpark opposite, as well as upgrade the adjoining park and footpath.

Aerial view showing size of the proposal

At a public meeting in the Surf Club on Monday 17th September around 230 residents turned up to voice their concerns against the proposed bulk and scale and of the plan (and that is a huge number in a community of this size). Avoca Beach Residents Group President Steve Fortey cited some of the residents concerns. “There is one road in and one road out of Avoca,” he said.”We are at capacity already and have managed to keep the high rises at bay so far…” Parking and gridlock would be an obvious concern especially on weekends when nippers, holiday makers, beach goers and now increased cinema traffic all drive around in circles competing for the limited amount of car spaces that simply won’t cope with what is being proposed here. “Most of the parking projection was based on a 2003 study, but traffic has increased substantially since then,” said Mr Fortey.

It’s a picture that is being played out up and down the coast… how to maintain the quiet serenity of a beachside locality that attracts people in the first place, while allowing for future development and increased population growth… Well, the answer is, at least in this case, fairly simple – Don’t.

  • Don’t build a 5 screen multiplex in a tiny beach village that clearly doesn’t want or need it. There are many, many places not far away that would be a far more suitable choice for this kind of development – Gosford, Erina, Wyong are all short drives away, and they don’t share the same traffic snarl and parking problems that Avoca Beach clearly would have to deal with.
  • Don’t ruin the charming character of a 1950’s heritage theatre, one that is obviously loved as it is, as shown by the loyal patronage and multitude of awards over the years including best Independent Regional Cinema three years running (that was obviously not won by being a multiplex!)
  • And quite simply don’t crush the irreplaceable ambience of this seaside village by trying to build a Westfield-like structure in the centre of it; a spectacularly oversized, gruesome looking structure so clearly out of place that nobody particularly wants to infect their lovely village. Make no mistake, once here, Avoca Beach will be changed forever. If a place like this is to change then it should be with community input and acceptance, and it must be a benefit to the townscape, not a brutal nondescript effigy beaten over the heads of unsuspecting locals, one that looks more like a public library than a cinema at that…

Heritage trashed, replaced by concrete box

Residents have until October 5 to comment on the ludicrous proposal, which coincides with busy school holiday period (funny that) so get busy writing.

Follow the link to a very informative Facebook Supporters page here.

A nice short film outlining the heritage of the theatre and movie-going on the Central Coast here.

Avoca Theatre DA details here

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    • Mike Rubbo says :

      You make the case very well. As talk to people who are upset, some themes recur. They don’t believe the theatre, as a single screen, is in trouble. They reject the dinosaur description beloved of the Hunters

      This is because so many people so vocally prefer the event making nature of the screen, than these people,spend money on frequent visits, attendance Ettalong would die for I suspect.

      Secondly, they don’t want boxes, big or little, as a substitute. Thirdly, the theatre is truly, emotionally, our opera house, even more loved than the original since it’s more affordable and older

      • inheritanceorg says :

        Absolutely right Mike. There is an emotional connection to the theatre for many locals I suspect. they can look on it as their own and take some pride in ‘ownership’. When that is destroyed then so is a sense of place and belonging. That’s why I fight for heritage.

  1. Michael Rubbo says :

    Also, take a look at this film about the heritage value of the Avoca Beach Theatre.

    • inheritanceorg says :

      Yes, that is a charming film that illustrates the lost history of movie theatres on the Central Coast. And the reason it is so important to maintain and protect the heritage of what is left… This theatre is precious. Thanks Michael for your hard work.

  2. Michael Rubbo says :

    Yet one more thing for those who love small charming theatres. We have a petition going to save ours. Please take a moment to sign it.

  3. June M Bullivant OAM says :

    Heritage in NSW is neither respected or acknowledged. The amount of trashy architecture concrete and glass boxes to the detriment of our past buildings that have beauty, the talent of the people who designed and built have to be seen. What do you do when there is competition and you are not talented, you destroy. Our elected representatives are supposed to protect and speak for the community, not dictate what we get.

    The Politician’s Creed, why do we bother?

    For the Greater Good and our Future!

    However, our Past is what makes us Today.

    But, Today is tomorrow’s Past.

    We are the Guardians of the Future

    So let us not destroy our Future,

    By destroying our Past.
    Stand a candidate for the next election that will speak for your community, who will respect our past, instead of worshipping the dollar.

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