Prawn festival idea for Ballina

What do you do with a big concrete crustacean that's looking down the barrel of demolition? Ballina councillor Sharon Cadwallader has a plan.

Cr Cadwallader would like to see the ageing, faded prawn relocated and turned into a water feature. But that's not all. She would also like to see an annual prawn festival to attract people to Ballina.

“It could be the re-birthing of the prawn... You could have a lot of fun with that,” she said. “We could bring chefs up who could cook prawns and it could be a way of honouring our prawn industry that was a very vibrant industry in bygone days.

“The fleet is diminishing for various reasons but the fishermen who bring our prawns put their lives at risk and work in all sorts of conditions. This is one way to pay tribute to them. There are endless possibilities. It's not going to happen without a lot of hard work and passion from a lot of people.”

Ballina council voted at their meeting last Thursday to approve the prawn's demolition by the current owners, Dojoo Pty Ltd.

Ballina Mayor Phil Silver said it was a passionate debate.

“The way the debate went was that it was made clear that it (the prawn) was not of historical significance, although there was concern about its economic value to Ballina. But of course you can't use the Environmental and Planning Assessment Act to constrain somebody from doing what they want on private property just because it has some commercial value for the town,” Cr Silver said.

But Cr Cadwallader said there was an opportunity for the community to step up and save the prawn.

“The bottom line is that this is an opportunity for regional development in Ballina. It's not something we can let slip through our fingertips. Whether you love it or hate it, it's working for Ballina when you have the Letterman Show (in the USA) talking about the prawn. It's iconic, people have a heart connection with it,” she said.

Cr Cadwallader said when she was visiting the prawn the other day, she saw four sets of people stop and pose for a photo while she was there.

“And they weren't Australians, they were all international visitors. And what to they do after they've had their photo? They go down highway and they don't even know we're on the coast...We need to turn this into a real opportunity, cease the day and do everything we possibly can to keep it here (in Ballina),” she said. “We need to think creatively.

“A water feature would create a fish habitat for snorkelling and boating.

“It would bring visitors into town post bypass.... We need people to spend money in our town. Businesses are doing it tough. After the bypass is complete there will be a certain amount of leakage, people skip on by Ballina, we need a hook to bring them in.”

Cr Cadwallader said she was planning to meet with Council engineers and representatives from Dojoo and work with council staff to look at different possible locations.

“Then all the government agencies have to be involved. It's no easy task...there are a lot of hurdles to jump,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Silver expressed his view was to have a small concrete pelican by the river as a possible replacement for the big prawn which he said would be more “cultured and sophisticated”.

“It's a personal idea of mine, but I'd like to have something like the little mermaid in Copenhagen,” he said.


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