As a child, when I was living in the Hunter Valley, I’d pay frequent visits to Forster with my family, long before the construction of the bridge. I became familiar with the beauty of the place when I was very young, I was a water baby after all, mum said.
Many decades later, my mother’s cousin, Kath Gough and her husband, Ken, made a sea change to Bluey’s Beach, Pacific Palms, from Gymea in Sydney, long before it was fashionable to do so. Happily for us, they had guest accommodation downstairs, so we were fortunate to be frequent visitors, and were able to enjoy halcyon days in their company for a few decades.
In 2016, we were in Forster again to celebrate a big milestone birthday for Aunty Kath and her large family, when we happened to walk past a real estate office in Wharf Street, where we encountered an agent we had befriended several years earlier. The idea of retiring to the region began to germinate, when we looked after my cousin’s house at Burgess Beach for a couple of months, while Sue and Theo were gallivanting in Europe and South America.
We had noticed two houses for sale, overlooking the ocean, in close proximity to where my cousin lives, so we asked the agent for an inspection. Certainly, Adam said, but first he wanted to show us an apartment in Tuncurry which was his favourite piece of real estate on the market at that time. Well, as it turned out, this was our dream unit, not only overlooking the ocean but the azure waters of the Wallis Lake estuary as well. It was a case of love at first sight.
We also fell in love with the district all over again; its ambience, its natural beauty, its pelicans, ospreys, black swans, dolphins and whales, as well as the clear waters of its beaches and bays.
No time was wasted before we sold our Crows Nest terrace on a very busy street, and moved into our three bedroom apartment, with a bit of change in individual and collective pockets.
We noticed that there was a proposed merger of councils of the Great Lakes, Taree and Gloucester regions on the cards, and considerable angst about this was expressed in articles in the local paper and online.
Oh, never mind, we thought, our halcyon days prevailed.
Then the Councils did merge, elections were held for new Councillors, in which we participated, before running away on a cruise on a P & O ship around some islands of Papua New Guinea in the Coral Sea.
On our return we learned the identities of our new councillors, although the names meant little, if anything, to us at the time.
A few weeks ago we noticed that the newly appointed General Manager had resigned without explanation, and that there was a contentious debate on the selection of his replacement. An important earlier Council meeting had been abandoned, when there were not enough Councillors present to form a quorum.
An extraordinary general meeting was called for January 24, 2018, at the Forster Council Chambers, so we decided that it was time to sit up straight, pay attention and to take our places in the public gallery, along with many other locals, in an endeavour to learn about the situation first-hand.
As we were at the back of the room, it was extremely difficult to hear the proceedings, and a request to some Councillors to turn up their microphones was made by a member of the gallery so, happily, things did improve momentarily.
I was shocked to observe that Councillors were at loggerheads throughout the meeting, and that the Mayor did not seem to have too much control. As a result, he had a tendency to take out his frustration on those of us in the public gallery, from time to time. Is it true that the Mayor was appointed after having his name drawn from a hat?
I felt most uncomfortable to witness the high degree of animosity in the room, but have resolved that, in future, Max and I will be paying our local government much more attention. I urge everyone, especially retirees like us, to do the same.