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BRIGHT FUTURE: The upgraded North Stockton boat ramp area, including a fish-cleaning pavilion and car and trailer park, on the bank of the Hunter River’s north arm. Picture: Jonathan Carroll TIME and tide have done much to shape the Stockton shoreline. But in recent months, it has been a team of workers giving amakeovertothe area around the North Stockton boat ramp.
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As well as workers, a group of politicians and officials trod the freshly laid turfand new bitumen car park to officially launch the upgrade on Tuesday.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the $850,000 projectwas funded by the state government and Newcastle City Council, and that the improvements would primarily benefit recreational boaties.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes described the work as “a fantastic community outcome” and said there was particular interest in the new fish-cleaning area.

A few hundred metres to the south, the Stockton boat harbour is still waiting for a similar revamp. A collection of commercial fishing boats and pleasure craft are berthed at old, rickety-looking finger wharves.

In January, the state government announced a $4.3 million refurbishment forthe boat harbour, but work isn’texpected to begin until February.

After the ceremony at the boat ramp, the Roads and Maritime Services’ acting operations manager in theHunter, Alex Hamilton, inspected the harbour and said the planned work was necessary “for safety, and for community expectations”.

“I think when the work is done, it will be a much better facility than what’s here now,” Mr Hamilton said.

Alex Delmoni is a Stockton resident and keeps a boat in the small harbour. He is also on the committee forits planned upgrade, which is expected toaccommodate 26 vessels. Mr Delmoni hopesthat as well as assuring the boat harbour’s future, the refurbishment will uncover some of the past.

He said a sandstone wall, almosta century old, that ran for kilometres along the Hunter River’s north armhad been all but buried. He assertedthe new works at the boat ramp had also covered some of the old wall.

“I’m very disappointed about that,” he said.

“I’m hoping they …dig out the wall and restore it [at the boat harbour]. It’sa historical feature, and it’s sad to see this little bit of history lost.”

History lies just below the surface around Stockton’s edges. Sailing ships used to berth along the shore, dumping their ballast.

“A lot of it was rubble that came from San Francisco after the [1906] earthquake there,” said local history researcher RonHaug.

Mr Haug said at the site of the revamped North Stockton boat ramp, the renowned boat-building family, the Towns, used to have a shed. The familyhad a business hiring rowboats to visitors. So alongStockton’s shores, the maritime past flows into the present.

HISTORY: Ships berthed at Stockton wharves in the early 1900s.

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