Black Head remains an eyesore

WASTELAND: What can be done to Black Head in Ballina, which looks like a wasteland following quarrying in the 1960s?
WASTELAND: What can be done to Black Head in Ballina, which looks like a wasteland following quarrying in the 1960s? Graham Broadhead

IT'S Ballina's historical eyesore - a blight on an otherwise beautiful coastline.

It's Black Head, the scene of what today would cause an environmental outcry if the events of the 1960s were to be repeated.

The headland at the northern end of Shelly Beach was quarried for basalt rock for several years from 1962 to provide rock to extend the North Wall.

And despite the best efforts of Ballina Shire Council and the Ballina Chamber of Commerce in the late 1960s and 1970s, restoration work was never carried out.

"Basalt found by council workers during formation of an ocean drive road brought a dramatic scenic change to Black Head as the Department of Public Works exploited the find in 1962 to make urgent repairs to the northern breakwater," former Northern Star editor Cliff Murray wrote in his history of local government, Across Three Bridges, in 1983.

The car park area at Black Head is not part of the natural landscape: "The plan of the Department of Public Works in 1964 to extend the Black Head quarry involved pushing the overburden into the sea," Mr Murray wrote.

When work finished, the then Ballina Municipal Council approved a proposal for the Black Head area to be terraced and levelled for a beautification plan.

A mayoral minute by Alderman Ray O'Neill in November 1969 - which came after the Department of Public Works advised it was not prepared to do the restoration work suggested by the council - said that the quarry work had resulted in the headland being completely changed in character and left as an untidy memorial to work done elsewhere (North Wall).

"The council would not have given its first blessing (to approve the quarry work) if it had been aware of the ultimate scale of the work and the disfigurement of the headland," Ald O'Neill wrote.

He said the Department of Public Works had "a moral responsibility to leave the headland in a presentable state".

Mr Murray wrote that "40 years after Charles Kingsford Smith made his Pacific flight landfall at Black Head, the Ballina Chamber of Commerce in July 1968 gained council co-operation for a commemorative plaque to be erected.

"The Department of Lands came into the picture in December 1969 with a request to the Department of Public Works to complete its removal of stone by 1972 ... and then restore the area."

In September 1971, plans were sent to the Department of Public Works for landscaping, revegetating and an access road.

Also in 1971, the Chamber of Commerce again asked that Black Head be restored "for tourist and historical needs as a memorial to the landfall by Kingsford Smith".

A 1971 Northern Star editorial headed "Restoration work on eyesore overdue" said: "The scar left at Black Head is an eyesore for which the whole blame rests with the Department of Public Works.

"If mining had been done by commercial enterprises, the restoration work would have been laid squarely on the line."

Mr Murray wrote in his final chapter on the whole Black Head quarry affair: "In 1983, there is still a need for the full restoration project to be done." In 2013, still nothing has been done.

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