For more than a century people have been visiting Catherine Hill Bay and writing it about it in terms of magnificent views, picturesque locations, interesting pub, a great surfing beach and healthy air invigorated by sea breezes.
On the other hand the residents, mainly mining families, gave certain locations ironical names like “Paradise Alley”, “Federal City”, “Slack Alley”, and “Mine End”, among others, for life was often hard. It is this special mix of place, perceptions and personalities that give Catherine Hill Bay its special flavour.
Even the residents find it hard to pin down what this special flavour is: for some it is coming home to the “best cuppa tea in the world” made with rain water (for there is no articulated water or sewerage), for some it is the bush and the wild flowers or the beach, or the security of neighbours long known. Sometimes the question is resolved with a shrug and the phrase “It’s a special place”.
Catherine Hill Bay Progress Association has polled the community every four years since 1994 to understand what the community thinks and to understand if views are changing.
Even though the community is changing with time the survey results show a strong lasting commitment to the protection of this “special place”.
In 1994 for example, 78 per cent of respondents were in favour of preserving the local landscape, ridges, flora and fauna, 89 per cent wanted the coastline preserved, 60 per cent were in favour of preservation of the major buildings in the village.
In 2002 residents were asked what they thought made the Bay such a special place: 98 per cent said the environment, the beach scored 98 per cent, neighbours 64 per cent, bushland 85 per cent, the quiet 85 per cent, its history 91 percent, and sense of community 58 percent.
The community welcomes visitors: 83 per cent were in favour of day visit tourism and 82 per cent favoured eco-tourism; 96 per cent favoured conservation/heritage tourism, with 73 per cent favouring surfing/fishing oriented tourism. Only 2 per cent were in favour of a resort and 27 per cent were against any form of tourism .
The 2006 survey results will be published in early February 2007. The Progress Association uses the Survey results to develop policies and programs which reflect community wishes and are consistent with State and local government policies.
It has resisted large scale development which would destroy the special features of the place, encouraged week-end accommodation opportunities by the 25 per cent of house-holders who do not occupy their houses full time.
The annual Heritage Festival is a bridge to build relationships with the Bowling Club, Wallarah Hotel and surf club so that they can share commercial benefits arising from local events.
It has pursued a State Heritage Listing so that the Bay can honour its history and make a contribution to the advancement of Lake Macquarie City by providing a unique, niche visitor experience. The Association created this web-site to provide information about the Bay, is seeking grant funds to improve signage and information for visitors, is helping to market accommodation availability, and is looking for low-key relationships with tourism providers and others who meet the community’s expectations
It is researching the Bay’s history and heritage locations and making this available to other organizations, such as the NSW Heritage Office, Lake Macquarie Library and East Lakes Historical Society Inc.
In other words, the Bay community knows it is the custodian of “a special place” and wants to both protect and share it with visitors.
We respect the place’s historical and environmental significance and we trust our visitors will, too.