Bondi pavilion new masterplan Photo: Erika Echternach

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By Erika Echternach

After much public outcry against a $38 million plan to overhaul the Bondi Pavilion proposed by former Mayor of Waverley Sally Betts, the Waverley Council has approved a revised brief of a more modest upgrade to the pavilion.

Local community members made their dissatisfaction with Ms Betts and her expensive plan clear when they voted her out of office in favour of John Wakefield, who intentionally worked to incorporate locals’ views in the revised proposal.

Lenore Kulakauskas, convener of the Bondi Beach precinct, expressed her jubilance over the voice of the people finally being heard saying, “Thank heaven we have John Wakefield as the mayor there now because he’s the one behind getting all of this going.”

Paul Paech, a politically active member of the Bondi community, explained that the costly plan would have greatly commercialised the pavilion, a space traditionally used by low-income members of the community, which left the locals aghast.

“It was a shock that would’ve removed these groups,” Mr Paech said. “There’s an alcoholic anonymous group that meets here every day, so to see groups like that, which are kind of grassroots helping people activities, replaced by high-income tourist-oriented activities was really fought.”

Ms Kulakauskas led a campaign to oppose the original proposal. By going to the initial council meeting to request a time extension, Ms Kulakauskas had prevented the plan from passing right through during the holiday period and created the opportunity for objections to be launched.

During the extra time, Kulakauskas and over 200 others worked to gather signatures against the proposal and hosted events and presentations at the pavilion that highlighted the locals’ ideas of what should be done to their community space.

“Over the course of the campaign we did a lot of work in showing there was a lot of support for finding a different plan,” Kulakauskas said.

In response, Mayor John Wakefield created the Bondi Pavilion Stakeholder Committee comprised of community members, representatives, and Bondi Ward councillors to get the community involved in the pavilion upgrade planning process.

Adrian Newstead, a member of the Bondi Pavilion Stakeholder Committee, said, “The stakeholder committee appointed by the Mayor after selecting participants from expressions of interest spent nearly 40 hours sitting in meetings and thrashing out the issues.”

Now, after hours of community consultation, the Waverley Council has voted to approve a new whole-of-venue design concept committed to restoring the Bondi Pavilion as a community and cultural centre and maintaining the building for the purpose of public recreation.

Cr Wakefield said, “Our vision for the Bondi Pavilion Upgrade and Conservation Project is to conserve, maintain and create a space that is future-proofed to serve the needs of the community and our millions of visitors for years to come.”

As opposed to the old proposal of constructing a new theatre, atrium and space for restaurants, the revised proposal calls for the retention and refurbishment of the music rooms, theatre, bar, High Tide and Sea Gull rooms in their existing positions. Renovations will also be made to the pavilion’s plumbing and amenities.

“I am very happy with this report and its recommendations,” Mr Newstead said. “The historical significance of the pavilion was taken into account at all times.”

But Mr Newstead also noted that the pavilion will be adequately upgraded to be of service for years to come.

“History is not fixed in time,” Mr Newstead said. “We did not look to replicate the building of the 1920s but sought to preserve those aspects of the building built and social history that we believed were important.”

Mr Paech said the locals are happy to be spared from paying $38 million for a facility geared toward tourists, instead paying considerably less for a building intended for their communal use.

“Basically, it’s a modest upgrade instead of the massive splash of cash,” Mr Paech said. “Who knows what it’ll cost, but it will cost probably half of the massive Betts proposal.”

Ms Kulakauskas agreed that the locals greatly benefited from the new plan not to overly commercialise the pavilion.

“It’s good for the community to have a place where things can happen, and that the community can be involved in,” Ms Kulakauskas said.

Cr Wakefield said the Council endorses the intention to improve and enhance the community space within the pavilion, keeping the leased commercial space primarily in the ground floor front façade and forecourt areas.

“Bondi Pavilion plays as an integral element of the Bondi Beach cultural landscape,” Cr Wakefield said. “Council commits to the restoration of the Bondi Pavilion as a community and cultural centre.”

Cr Wakefield added that there will be further consultation with the Bondi Pavilion Stakeholder Committee and the wider community prior to submitting a development application, which once submitted, will be subject to a 28-day public consultation period.

The revised brief of the Bondi Pavilion Upgrade and Conservation Project was sent to Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (TZG) architects on Wednesday, 20 June.

Although it is still early in the process, TZG projected that the tender documentation will most likely be completed by early 2020 with an 18-month construction period, depending on the timeliness of authority approvals and construction method selection.