Is the Sydney Fish Market the city’s worst tourist attraction?
Sydney can promise so much yet deliver so little. A case in point is the Sydney Fish Market, the biggest market of its kind (but not the retailer of the biggest fish) in the southern hemisphere.
While it sells itself as a tourist attraction, the smelly fish market has been an exercise in self-interest for decades. As it stands, plastic seats on metal stands overlook the dirty and aptly named Blackwattle Bay. Heritage falls apart on the harbor's shore, iron rusts, and there is no foreshore access. Two huge cement factories that dominate the view around the bay pollute the water.
The remainder of the waterfront has often been secretly leased to companies by the government port authority.
The adjacent Wentworth Park is dominated by a recent 20-year lease -– given by the state government -– to a greyhound association where a few hundred people might roll up to gamble during evening race meetings.
Yet, you will still see tourists at the fish market for lunch, swallowing a typical over-priced lie from the emerald city.
A plan to change all this was unveiled last year: the government was pitching in 50-50 with the fish market’s trust for a $40 million development to increase its retail space, access and environment.
The fish market is managed by a fisherman’s trust that includes families and networks of Italian, Greek and Chinese Australians.
The city would be disappointed again: the huge development that was going to transform the factory-looking market into a people’s precinct had fallen through. They have “knocked the plan on the head.” The fishing families backed out of the only tangible deal a state government has ever offered.
The huge marina and expanded market was a pipe dream, after all.
This is nothing new for Blackwattle Bay. A “master plan,” conceived in 2000 by the state government, looked great on paper or screen view: parklands and paths would open the bay for utopia. In the decade-long life of the master plan, no formal application of development was ever made. It wasn't economically viable.
A spokesperson for the Glebe Chamber of Commerce said “The area is such a mess. Paths are falling down but all this government care about is how much money they can make. They're unsympathetic to the environment.”
The ultimately powerless community group, the Blackwattle Cove Coalition, describe the area as “disappointing.”
The market’s chief executive, Grahame Turk, told the ABC, "I think it's appalling. I think it's a short-term, short-sighted decision and if there's a solution out there somewhere then I'd love to hear it. But at this stage it's all over.”
No big news there. Except if you were gullible enough to believe the fishy deal would ever go ahead.
Sydney Fish Market, Bridge Road Blackwattle Bay, +61 (0)2 9004 1100, www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au