Ocean Baths Restoration Closer

Tenders called for Newcastle Ocean Baths pool area upgrade.

The pool, sea walls, and lower promenades at Newcastle Ocean Baths will be restored when the summer season ends.

With the 98 year old pool approaching its centenary, City of Newcastle says it has the funds available to almost completely restore the pool area, walkways, and pavilion buildings to original condition.

The upgrade is a staged project, starting with the pools and lower concourse. Meanwhile consultation and assessments continue for the upper concourse and pavilion.

Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said signs of ageing had become impossible to miss, especially around her pools and promenades, with sections of the lower promenade literally falling into the ocean in recent storms.

The pools upgrade had been guided by engagement with the Newcastle Ocean Baths Community Reference Group and broader public, with construction expected mid-2021.

We’ve had some great feedback from the community about what’s important to them as we undertake these essential upgrades to Newcastle Ocean Baths’ pools, like retaining the iconic boardwalk, maintaining the historic sand bottom, and improving accessibility.

We’ll be making some practical improvements like relocating the pool pumps so our staff can safely access them for maintenance, while ensuring that historic elements like the pump house remain in place.”

Council began community consultation in November 2019 and formed a community reference group (CRG) to help guide the project in March 2020. This followed a considerable public outcry when in November 2019 “expressions of interest” were sought to “redevelop” the pavilions “in overhauls that could include restaurants..” along with an unflattering artist’s concept drawing.

The CRG has found generally the public input prefers the baths to remain almost exactly as they have been for the past century. Even the kiosk’s present functionality was found optimal.

Privacy of bathers was an overriding concern that might have quashed any departure from the original pavilion that comprised change rooms and a central caretaker residence.

Acting CEO Ken Liddell said the immediate focus for the City was to deliver a safe and efficient upgrade to Newcastle Ocean Baths’ pools, while continuing assessments to inform the second stage of the project.

We have since had three formal CRG meetings since March, with an additional two focus groups delving into key issues including change rooms and the café/kiosk and community spaces.

Based on this feedback and the importance of an informed, successful co-design process with the CRG for the Stage 2 pavilions restoration, we will continue investigations, such as the needs analysis and more detailed condition assessments prior to resuming face-to-face engagement on Stage 2 when it’s safe to do so.

In the meantime, we’re focussed on working with the CRG to share information and limit the disruption caused by the important Stage 1 upgrade to the pools.”

In February 2020 Council committed to funding the renewal of Newcastle Ocean Baths in full, and said it will direct the $9.5 million recovered from the Fred Ash building sale to the project.

Aerial view in 2020 shows deteriorating concrete pool surrounds and demolished northern pavilion (top right).