Once upon a time – WAAAAAAY back in the dim, distant world of 1989 – Ballina’s tail-less BIG Prawn sat atop the West Ballina transit centre and restaurant. Inside, visitors could climb up into its head and view a distorted world through the thick perspex of its concave eye. Over time, as businesses came and went below, the passive prawn’s exotic colouring faded from the original cooked-prawn red to pink, then finally a ghastly, ghostly white.
20 years later, after reports it was suffering from crustacean concrete cancer, the local council approved its demolition.
What were they thinking??
Yet, while some – especially those with good taste and refinement – see Australia’s notorious Big Things as trashy and tacky kitsch, for better or worse they’re a part of the Aussie culture.
Which should give non-Australians a disturbing idea of our national condition … but I digress!
To us Aussies, it’s quite normal to wander through a landscape awash with giant fibreglass and concrete objects that almost – but not quite – represent actual fruit, animals and people.
But to actually destroy one?
Our inbuilt nationalistic tendency to defend the underdog kicks in!
That’s possibly why nearby coastal town Yamba’s 2012 takeover bid was thwarted and the shrinking shrimp received a stay of execution demolition order!
Locals from Ballina, in Northern New South Wales and an hour’s drive south of the Queensland border, weren’t going to give up their placid prawn without a fight.
After all, watching the Prawn Trawlers head down the Richmond River, across the churning waters of its treacherous Bar and out through its mouth to sea for a night of fishing is one of the joys of walking Ballina’s twin breakwalls. It’s even more exciting watching the trawlers return to cross the bar through a mountainous swell in seas so heavy I’ll never to complain about the price of seafood again!
With Ballina’s inaugural Prawn festival date of November 2013 fast approaching, it somehow seems right for the Big Prawn Ballina to remain.
So when hardware giant Bunnings tapped into the community outrage with a masterful blend of goodwill, expedience and positive publicity by writing a new lease of life for the controversial crustacean into its development proposal for the site on which it stood, the shiftless shrimp’s future was assured.
And in a lucky break for the Big Thing loving public – and quite possibly Ballina’s international tourist industry – the Big Prawn Ballina has not only been preserved, but given a makeover.
Now, after being moved to it’s final resting spot, raised 3 metres so its brand-new tail would fit underneath, and repainted to a mouth-watering shade of cooked-crustacean salmon pink, the Big Prawn is BACK!
And although the finishing touches were still being applied on this rare rain-free Northern Rivers afternoon, the pulchritudinous prawn looks better than ever!
- See MY PHOTO in the Little Aussie Book of BIG Aussie Icons!