It's no Eiffel Tower just an eyeful. The not-so historical telecommunications tower has a commanding presence over Grafton's main street.
It's no Eiffel Tower just an eyeful. The not-so historical telecommunications tower has a commanding presence over Grafton's main street. Contributed

10 things Grafton City got wrong

WE ALL love a list. This is by no means definitive nor based on any real expertise, but hey there's nothing wrong with making observations about the place you have lived for most of your life, right? Some of the wrongdoings are old, others more recent, and you can agree or disagree.

Feel free to add or defend in the comments section below. We won't end on a sour note though - The 10 Things Grafton City Got Right is just around the corner...

1. Rejected a university


Okay it's the stuff of legend but there were strong rumours about some of the reasons we still don't have one. From attracting too many lefties to town to the cost of a road to a proposed Clarenza site. Whatever it was, it killed off the opportunity to develop a campus in the late 1960s.

This sentiment followed again in the early 1990s with the opportunity to have a Southern Cross University branch. Lucky Coffs. Lucky Lismore.


2. Running the new Grafton bridge through the guts of the oldest city on the North Coast

Progress works on the Grafton Bridge.
Progress works on the Grafton Bridge. Adam Hourigan Photography

For starters running a contemporary design smack up against the old one has destroyed the outlook.

How many nice photos of the rare railway bridge have been taken at sunset and dawn to stunning results thanks to its surrounding riverscape? Plenty thankfully because that horse has bolted now. 

The new bridge's placement also forced the destruction of a heritage precinct. The bulldozing of various vintages of homes and established trees required for this project has stripped the aesthetics of that part of town forever.

The option to place it downstream few hundred metres may have been more expensive but running it through an undeveloped area would have been less destructive and disruptive and, in the long-term, provided the opportunity for a new hub to spring up around it.


3. Stripped Prince Street of its historical charm and got its parking wrong

Prince Street, Grafton
Prince Street, Grafton

Plastic surgery from the 1960/70s still haunts as cladding, garish signage and an enormous telecommunications tower now reign supreme over the surviving original facades. Skinner St has it all over Prince in this regard.

It just needs some spit and polish while Prince St needs major surgery. The reintroduction of trees and period-style street lights does its best to detract from the mess but retaining reverse angle parking lacked foresight and makes the originally generously proportioned street look positively standard.

We gave up an entire traffic lane to do this and trying to encourage an alfresco cafe scene is near impossible when customers are forced to inhale exhaust fumes with their bacon and eggs.


4. Sold river frontage to the mean high water mark

2013 Grafton floods
2013 Grafton floods NSW SES

Well, those subdivisions are more than a century old so dedicating a 'public' reserve so everyone could picnic by the Clarence wasn't in the vernacular back then.

Council has dabbled in reopening and rejuvenating some sections of crown land to improve public access but we might get another one in 100-year-flood before that happens.


5. Ugly entrances

South Grafton
South Grafton Rob Burley

The worst is what will be the old Pacific Highway on both northern and southern approaches. These shunt you into a pretty ordinary Bent Street approach with abandoned and rundown buildings.

This is closely followed by the Armidale Road entrance. The Summerland Way and Gwydir are the best we offer at the moment.

Tastefully designed welcome to Grafton markers and rows of trees help distract from eyesores but start planting now.

6. Knock down Grafton's awesome heritage buildings.

Some old photos bring tears to your eyes. Let's cherry pick a few excuses for driving the wrecking ball through various vintages of archiecture. White ants, accidental fires or there's just the ignore council and knock it down in the dark approach. It's all happened before. As for Mid Century architecture it's the latest endangered species. Rendering over bespoke brickwork unique to the Clarence should be a crime. Ugly developments, renovations and design that scars our landscape. This isn't exclusive to Grafton so there's no need to name names but when beautiful old buildings are knocked down to put up modern monstrosities or defaced because of passing fads it's unforgivable.  

7. Closing down the Grafton Drive-In in the late 1980s.

This one deserves its own number because of the drawcard potential lost. It was probably a hard business decision at a time when the video player was hijacking the entertainment scene but sentimentality sells in a place like Grafton and offering a rare entertainment experience like this would today would be major tourist attraction.  

8. Losing the battle with Coffs and Lismore across government service platforms.

Okay, we're getting a new jail (yay) and a new bridge. And a new highway that's going to take us 13kms away from the action. But having strong government services can effect a centre's growth immensely like a university. Private enterprise has stepped up to fill some of that void like specialist medical care and the potential for a country university centre. Grafton had a lot of firsts because it was the first city on the North Coast but it lost traction over the decades to our northern and southern neighbours. The size of our airport is an indication of that.


A page from the booklet Grafton Through the Years illustrates some of the heritage carnage. Grafton Guest House, Queen St (1931) and what it is today, part of the Coles carpark.
A page from the booklet Grafton Through the Years illustrates some of the heritage carnage. Grafton Guest House, Queen St (1931) and what it is today, part of the Coles carpark. Grafton City Council

9. Shutdown its nightlife.

Okay, it has been bouncing back over the past few years thanks to a dedicated few venues and people, but something happened between the end of the 90s that sucked live music out of the place. Blame the police, blame the liquor licensing accord, blame the loss of young people to university towns, blame the pokies. There used to be multiple venues all over the city with live music Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and Sunday. The famous post celebratory activities for July Racing Carnival and the Jacaranda Thursday are now a shadows of their former selves. Even Santa and his crawling buddies were killed off in anticipation of bad behaviour. Don't you know how Christmas works?  

10. Complacency.

If you don't fight to save stuff you'll lose it. Not wanting any change because you preferred 1950s Grafton isn't the answer either. It can stifle a place indefinitely or take decades for it to catch up with everywhere else. We're on a roll at the moment with the influx of workers and people that wear lanyards but that's got an expiry-date. Let's hope a few more visionairies grab opportunity by the horns by 2020.  

NEXT: 10 things Grafton City got right

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