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‘Intimidating presence’: Has Home and Away outstayed its welcome at Palm Beach?

Summer Bay’s imaginary residents can enjoy million-dollar vistas from the wealthy enclave of Palm Beach.

A residents organization, however, has accused the creators of the television series Home and Away of taking over a park, establishing a “intimidating presence,” and hurting the public’s enjoyment of the green area.

The Northern Beaches Council and the North Palm Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, both of which profit financially from the filming of the Seven Network television show, argue that it brings tourists and highlights the area.

Governor Phillip Park in Palm Beach appeared to be a “big film set on at least three days a week,” according to Virginia Christensen, vice president of The Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association.

Ms Christensen added that on certain days, barricades kept the public out of some areas of the park, while traffic was slowed and parking lots were closed.

“The presence of security guards and the traffic management officers who are obviously there to ensure filming proceeds smoothly sometimes create an intimidating presence and on occasions can be overbearing,” she said.

A Seven spokesman said in a statement: “Seven Productions is extremely thankful and sensitive to the residents of Palm Beach and we continually keep any filming disruption to a minimum while respecting the rights of the community.”

In 2021, the Northern Beaches Council granted 222 filming and photography requests in the Pittwater area, generating around $220,000 in revenue from television and film companies.

The long-running soap opera also draws tourists, according to the council, which cites a 2019 study that revealed nearly 10% of visitors claimed Home and Away was how they learned about the city.

“Council personnel works closely with film production crews to ensure our beaches, parks, and open spaces are safely enjoyed by the public during and after film production,” said Ray Brownlee, the council’s chief executive.

The noise of large trucks and generators, which Ms. Christensen said were frequently parked on the edge of the road, breaking the asphalt and destroying the grass, had an impact on park users, she added.

“The public’s quiet enjoyment of the otherwise peaceful park and Pittwater environment is compromised,” she said.

The residents’ association is also concerned that the television show is not paying commercial rates for the use of Governor Phillip Park, which the city council has neglected to maintain.

In a 2021 bulletin, the PBWBA expressed concern about the park’s “tired state,” which includes insufficient bathroom facilities, potholes, and unprotected picnic tables.

The residents’ group, according to Ms. Christensen, was pleased with the benefits the television show gave to local companies such as lodging, surf schools, and hospitality providers.

“However we are concerned that the filming fees charged in Governor Phillip Park for the filming of Home and Away do not reflect comparative rates in other cities where the location is a major element of the brand and is a vital outdoor studio for the work,” she said.

The rates required to use the park, she argued, should reflect the large scope and regularity of the television production.

The North Palm Beach Surf Lifesaving Club is additionally compensated for allowing the television show to utilize its facilities and for providing services such as water safety.

Terry Kirkpatrick, the director of administration for the surf lifesaving club, claimed that the cast and crew of Home and Away use the club’s bathrooms and facilities and that members of the club volunteer to help with the production when needed.

“All income received from Home and Away goes to purchasing rescue equipment, providing training and qualifications for our members and maintaining the building and surrounds,” he said.

“Despite all of the activity, the place is well kept and is not run down,” Mr. Kirkpatrick said of Governor Phillip Park and the area around the surf club, which are utilized for commercial activities and by huge numbers of tourists and the general public throughout the year.

Emergency life-saving efforts that required helicopters to land in the park, he said, may have had the largest impact.


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