Plans to redevelop the former Morisset golf course into a multi-million dollar tourism and event venue has split the Lake Macquarie community with neighbouring residents concerned about the increase in traffic, and the impact of noise and poor behaviour of concert-goers.
Developer Paul Lambess from Newcastle-based Winarch Capital is proposing to transform the Dora Street site into a mix of camping grounds, seniors housing, outdoor concert venue, splash water park and cultural/arts space to be known as Cedar Mill.
The project has the support of the business chamber, Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser and Independent MP Greg Piper.
Last Wednesday Mr Lambess joined business partner Kyle McKendry at a public meeting to outline the company's plans, which involves splitting the 92-hectare site into five precincts.
A total of six development applications have been lodged with Lake Macquarie City Council for the site's $235 million redevelopment, which, if approved, is expected to equate to $790 million in economic benefits.
It is this economic contribution, along with local jobs and infrastructure investment, that excites the South Lake Business Chamber and Community Alliance president Jo Hanlon.
"As a voice for both business and residents we need to strike a balance that is acceptable and in the interests of the wider community. We understand there are community concerns about roads and traffic impacts so it is important that people voice their opinions - both positive and negative - on the council's DA tracker," she said.
Morisset residents Richard and Lynnette Baigent, who also attended the community meeting at the Morisset Community Hall, say the proposal is a mass over-development of the site, while expressing concerns over the traffic and social impacts.
"Morisset Country Club blended peacefully with nature and the local wildlife," he said.
"It has provided a community outlet for all ages (including children) to learn a sport, raise money for charities, provide a facility with entertainment, cheap meals, social events and held Anzac Day services.
"It is estimated the Cedar Mill proposal will attract 30,000 people to concerts, 200 coaches and some 2000 cars via a road system that will not cope. Where will they park? Like some of the concerts we have attended, there will be lots of drunks, people throwing up, fights and masses of litter left behind."
A Winarch spokesperson said that it was estimated by Dantia the project would produce 1224 construction jobs plus a further 475 ongoing jobs.
"There is significant parking to accommodate the family and community space. For the arts, cultural and event area we will encourage the majority of visitors to use rail [just 600m from the venue] or coach to attend. This will also remove significant traffic issues," the spokesperson said.
"Additionally, there will be 528 permanent carparking spaces plus ample temporary parking facilities for staff as required. Winarch Capital is also looking at offsite parking options and has had one of Australia's leading concert acoustic engineers to advise on stage design and noise management. Appropriate levels of police and security will be present at all Cedar Mill events."
Mayor Kay Fraser said the site's proximity to the Sydney-Newcastle train line and M1 Motorway made it "ideal for this kind of investment".
"The plans are very ambitious and it is wonderful to see such a vision that will translate to more jobs and an ongoing injection into our local economy."
MP Greg Piper believed the proposal would be embraced by the vast majority of locals. "Some will be disappointed that the golf course is changing but I think the opportunities on offer here are huge. Road and traffic issues will obviously be looked at during the assessment process."
The first precinct proposes a refurbishment of the existing clubhouse to include cafes and restaurants. The second, which runs along Dora Street, is a large family-orientated water park. The third is a 28-hectare event space to accommodate 30,000 people for outdoor concerts and trade shows.