The Big Prawn at Ballina.
The Big Prawn at Ballina.

Big Prawn vandalised

WELCOME to Ballina, the home of the decaying icons.

Motorists driving through the coastal town for more than a month now have been greeted with the sight of a penis and other graffiti on the neglected Big Prawn at West Ballina – even through the busy school holiday period.

Those tourists who stay to look around the town can check out the historic Richmond River lighthouse, which sits proudly on Lighthouse Hill at East Ballina, and they can see the effects of the salt air.

The rail on the top section of the 1866-built lighthouse is badly rusted, and the rust is staining the paintwork on the building, which is maintained by the NSW Land and Property Management Authority.

That’s despite the NSW Maritime sign on the building warning that it is an offence to damage the building, with the maximum penalty of $1500.

These aren’t the first icons of Ballina to be left in a state of neglect.

For about 30 years, an icon of the Richmond River, the historic riverboat MV Florrie, was left to decay on the riverbank until finally being moved by Ballina Shire Council into the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum several years ago.

Ballina Tourism and Hospitality secretary, Dave Heggie, isn’t impressed with the state of the Big Prawn or the lighthouse.

He said the Big Prawn, although currently up for sale and with demolition orders approved by council, was still a popular spot for tourists to stop and take photographs.

“They’ve got to find somewhere where they don’t get the graffiti,” he said.

“But it’s still an icon. People still know about it and people still take photos of it.”

Mr Heggie said the historic lighthouse wasn’t promoted enough as a tourist destination in Ballina – even though the shire’s northern cousin, Byron Bay, took full advantage of its lighthouse.

He even suggested the pilot’s cottage next door, which is owned by the NSW Land and Property Management Authority, would make a great visitor information centre as council searches for a new site for the current tourist centre.

A NSW Land and Property Management Authority spokesperson said ‘recent inspections have confirmed the lighthouse will require repainting in the near future’.

“It will be considered as part of the upcoming maintenance program,” the spokesperson said.

The owner of the Big Prawn, Santo Pennisi, was unavailable to comment on the graffiti.

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