Paul Scott | Two thumbs up, one down for council

BEACHY CLEAN?: Not exactly. Newcastle City Council has been issued a festive red cross for removing the dressing area and showers at Nobbys.
BEACHY CLEAN?: Not exactly. Newcastle City Council has been issued a festive red cross for removing the dressing area and showers at Nobbys.

THUMBS-UP to Newcastle City Council for the refurbishment of the male toilets on the promenade at Newcastle beach.

It wasn’t before time. That there was one single dunny in the male facilities was both an embarrassment to the city and an impractical health hazard. That beach regularly has a few thousand people at the one time during the summer holiday period. If someone messed in that single toilet mid-afternoon, then options on what to do with screaming four-year-old twins demanding number two time were unreasonably limited.

Whether Supercars provided the impetus for this long-needed work is only known by few, but it’s been done and it’s been done well. And thankfully, there remains a dressing room and showers in those toilets, unlike at Nobbys, but more on that later.

The promenade provides a terrific place to grab a coffee, sit and watch the waves and ponder whether the NCC tractor will ever come and comb the beach. The beach tractor’s appearance on our beaches is perhaps driven by a secret formula, unlike at Lake Mac beaches where the tractor arrives according to a schedule. NCC ratepayers are entitled to see a published schedule of planned tractor cleaning operations.

Another thumbs-up to NCC for extending the cleaning hours of the toilets at our beaches and ocean baths during summer. The full-time cleaners knock off at 12.30pm on weekdays and at 8am on weekends. Some members of the public assume lifeguards must address messes made after those times. That puts lifeguards in a difficult situation. Explaining to the public it is not their job to clean can result in a lifeguard fatwa.

What matters is not just providing additional resources for cleaning, but making sure the cleaning duties as determined by the daily “tick-off list” for Merewether and Newcastle ocean baths and the surrounding areas are carried out consistently and thoroughly. That requires NCC management and overseers regularly leaving the roundhouse and depot to go and see for themselves if the cleaning is being done to a standard expected by ratepayers.

The daily “tick-off list” seems to be optional in numerous cases – but I stress not all cases. I doubt anything will change for the long-term until a full operational review of all aspects – including management, staffing, scheduling and costing – of the cleaning of the beaches, facilities and ocean baths is carried out independently and made public. Last financial year, ratepayers kicked in more than $100 000 in overtime and penalty rates for the six full-time cleaning staff at the beaches and ocean baths.

And Nobbys? Many non-locals will realise for the first time that NCC approved the downsizing of the public toilets and removed the dressing area and showers.

As a result, if you want to get dressed and undressed, you are compelled to enter a toilet cubicle to do so. You must shower outside, which is not as bad as having to enter a cubicle to get dressed and undressed. Big thumbs-down. We deserve better.

I’m sure there’ll be some bureaucratic balderdash about “best practice” justifying such a stupid decision. Visitors, who are now coming back to Nobbys as the summer days heat up and Supercars are dismantling, are wandering around asking anyone with an ear where the dressing sheds are.

Seriously? Nowhere to get dressed and undressed except in a public toilet cubicle at one of the city’s iconic family beaches?

Whack that in the tourist brochures.

This story It’s no clean sweep, but list almost tickety-boo first appeared on Newcastle Herald.