A vision to include a dedicated major festival and events facility as part of the Bombo Quarry redevelopment is gaining momentum, with the establishment of the Kiama Epicentre Association.
“We are currently conducting tours that show people the potential of the land and have had discussions with the Council and the landowners about why putting land aside for the Epicentre is worthwhile,” says one of the drivers of the project, Peter O’Neill.
“Most of the councillors and senior staff have already had a look at the site. Both the Federal and State members have also been on a tour and are very supportive and will look at grants for us further down the track.”
The whole 114 hectare Bombo quarry site is largely owned by Boral and Transport for NSW, with a small amount owned by Cleary Brothers and some roads owned by Council.
“We are talking to Boral and Transport for NSW now, because they are currently developing a master plan for the filling of the quarry and the quality of the fill and the amount of fill will determine what can be developed on the site The fill process alone will take 5-8 years,” says Peter.
“At the moment the commissioned reports are mainly looking at a combination of residential, industrial and commercial land for the redeveloped quarry.
“We think there are compelling reasons why the Epicentre should be part of the mix for the masterplan.
“This is the time to raise the idea, while the elements are still being decided, rather than be allowed to comment once there are completed plans.”
A 19 ha parcel has been identified for the Epicentre site, with a mixture of quarried land, forest and farmland.
The land in question hugs the side of the highway, half a km to the west of the roundabout entrance to the State Rail Quarry. It is bounded by an unformed section of Panama Street.
It includes a disused quarry area, where it is envisaged the main festival area (large enough for 5000 festival goers) and parking will be located, and untouched bushland which would be used for camping and smaller venues.
For ten years, Peter and other members of the Illawarra Folk Club have been championing the need for a dedicated home for major festivals and events in the Illawarra.
“Putting on a large festival in our area requires negotiating with so many parties, hiring so much equipment and a lot of effort to get a DA approved,” he says.
“What we are proposing is a site that has much of that infrastructure – such as venues, fences, parking and toilets – built in, to enable a streamlined DA for an event.”
He says after 10 years of looking across the Illawarra, they have been unable to find a better site.
“This one is right by the highway and the railway, and has access to utilities.
“It will be a great driver of economic activity for the region, creating new jobs and attracting visitors year round.
“The combination of the location and the natural beauty makes it ideal.”
Peter doesn’t believe the noise from the events will affect the new residential area.
“There are natural buffers of distance and height and buildings will be designed to minimize sound spill.”
The concept is that the site would host 12 large events a year, along with a number of smaller events, and be open to the community for creative pursuits throughout the year.
“This has the potential to be a real attraction for our area. There is no similar facility in another regional area,” says Peter.
“There are all sorts of events looking for a home, not just music festivals. There could be anything from camping shows to medieval festivals.”
Income from the community-managed site would generate funds to maintain and expand infrastructure and maintain the environment.
Wollongong festival organisers, Yours & Owls, are impressed by the concept for the site.
“It would be amazing to have a facility like this in our region,” says Balunn Jones.
“There is so much potential.”
A business case is being developed to support the proposal, and the Australian Festivals Association has agreed to support the Epicentre in discussions with NSW government agencies.
“The first step in gaining support for the concept is the establishment of the Kiama Epicentre Association to manage the tasks, develop the objectives of the project and demonstrate the feasibility of a major festival and event site set within an environmentally sustainable area.”
“We are looking for anyone that shares our vision for Bombo Quarry to join our Association,” says Peter.
“While we would welcome anyone who shares our vision and passion, we are also after assistance from a graphic designer for branding and a new logo, an IT person for a website and Facebook, a financial consultant for the business case, a drone operator, a photographer, an environmentalist, an editor, a proofreader, a fundraiser and a marketing person.”
Anyone getting involved needs to understand the project will take some time, and that there are many challenges to be overcome.
“Realistically the development and implementation of this project will take 10-15 years to be fully implemented and require formal engagement and approval from key stakeholders to investigate and promote the feasibility of progressing this further,” says Peter.
When contacted by The Bugle, a spokesperson for Boral said, “Investigations into potential future opportunities for Boral’s land are at a very early stage.
“Accordingly, we believe it is premature to be identifying any specific uses.”
Those interested should contact firstname.lastname@example.org