The Ballad of Tuncurry Plaza – Tuncurry, NSW

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It’s an Australian tradition – a summer holiday where you all pile into the family car and tolerate each others’ company in close proximity for several hours before stopping at a beachside town for a week or so of fun, laughter, awkward silence, teen angst, Bubble O’ Bills, arguments, bitterness, shifting allegiances, charcoal chicken, backstabbing, fishing, violence and ultimately, relief at returning to the social fold.

Or was it just me?

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Forster Tuncurry is one of those towns, like Ulladulla or the Entrance, usually associated with that summer pilgrimage, and fortunately, it’s well equipped to handle any needs you may have during your trip. Forget one of those creature comforts? Head over to Tuncurry Plaza, they’ve got you covered!

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Or do they?

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Gee, it’s looking a little…sparsely populated right now, but it does tick all the boxes. Hair salon?

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Supermarket?

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Chicken shop?

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Uh…is it Sunday?

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Okay, butcher?

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You’re making me look bad, Tuncurry Plaza! You gotta at least have some thoughtful things…

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Aw, come on!

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Tuncurry Plaza’s plaque claims the centre opened in 1996, but the architecture suggests a time decades earlier. Maybe they renovated and extended it in ’96 to handle all the *snort* extra customers…

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Step 1: Get people to come inside. Step 2: Evacuate.

As it stands, the place is a tomb. The women in the pharmacy asked me what the hell I was doing taking photos, but when I explained what I do, they were much more forthcoming. A familiar soap opera of local egos, greed and apathy explained why things are the way they are here, but that’s not the interesting part, is it?

No, it’s that sense of total abandonment, like they could have just walked out yesterday. In a world becoming more and more populated by the day, to find a place that’s completely empty and silent is a rare treat. Behold:

No more picking up a Dan Brown or Kaz Cooke to half-read on the beach while you tan, only to spill sand all over your bed when you try to finish it back home…

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Hard to find, alright.

No more watery coffee and stale scones while you wait for him to buy a replacement for that torch he swore he packed but is sitting on the kitchen table at home…

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While we’re at it, no replacement torch.

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Definitely NO toilet breaks.

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Some of the tenants had moved out to the street where, y’know, people are.

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…while some had vanished without a trace.

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There’s plenty of parking, natch.

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Though this bastard stole my spot.

Although we can’t take the failure of Tuncurry Plaza as a standard for such places across the country, it’s certainly something you’re seeing more and more. Just look at Newcastle – a city-sized Tuncurry Plaza, which has required government intervention in order to live again. Look at Holbrook, where not even a submarine could save it from going under. Port Macquarie, which is dangerously close to being renamed Port Macarthur.

The need for expedient travel is killing places like this. As we live longer, as work demands more of us, and as the internet is making it easier to plan trips for ourselves, we’re trying to cram more into our leisure time. Once upon a time, you’d brag about your summer trip to Tuncurry. Now, unless you’ve been to St. Barts or Mauritius, you keep it to yourself.

Ain’t nobody wanna see this on their feed:

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5 responses

  1. Nice work, Michael. I was going to go to Berchtesgaden next year but the lure of a busker-free Tuncurry is too strong.

  2. First went to Tuncurry on holidays in the mid 80s. A local may know more than me (I live not too far away) but this plaza was there in some form in the 80s. Bi-Lo was then Shoey’s Food Barn and it was the big supermarket in town. This plaza has been killed by the large Woolies behind the shops on the other side of the road. Until recently this plaza had one of those candy shops that specialised in musk sticks and eucalyptus balls. These little shops don’t seem to last long but are very popular in peak holiday time. The little book shop was a beauty. They would order in hard-to-find books and had a great selection of history and transport books. I picked up two great specialised car books there as well not long before it shut. But no more books to browse – it has gone where just about every book shop has gone which is so sad.

    1. You should know the pharmacy has become Tuncurry’s musk dealer. I got my fix.

  3. Have you seen the site of Alan who did ‘Walk Sydney Streets’.Or something? Odd stuff on there.Thanks.

  4. Reminds me of the old Franklins complex at Caringbah (NSW). It was a ghost town until the Franklins decided to pull the plug and then the few remaining shops (a bakery, newsagent, optometrist and photo developer/ DVD transfer place) had to leave. The building has been lying abandoned for the last few years. Recently i found out it is soon to be an Aldi.

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