Sunday, 19 March 2017

Issues and Recommendations for Urgent Repairs and Improvements to restore water quality & enhance social amenity

Bulli pool on a hot summer’s day….

The Bulli community demanded Council fix bad smells at the pool and address the apparent lack of pool maintenance. Pensioner Mal Roberts, who organised a 1,000-signature petition, said he'd call in support from winter swimming groups and the schools, if Council couldn't find the money to rectify the pool's problems. Residents petitioned Wollongong Council until the problems were resolved to their satisfaction and using the 50-metre pool was no longer 'like swimming in sewage' despite Council statements that the pool was cleaned every three months. Locals worried about the impact the putrid pool would have on tourism, as most of the people in Bulli's summer crowds were not local residents. (Press report, March 1998. NSW Heritage Office web site)

Issue: Bulli tidal pool is subject to ongoing water quality problems as a result of alterations to the pool structure and its immediate environs by Wollongong City Council since the late 1970s. These works have resulted in a decrease in the ability of water to flow into and out of the pool. Urgent action is needed to restore the tidal seawater flushing regime and improve the general usability of the pool for locals and tourists alike. Council should act to restore Bulli tidal pool to its original configuration and bring a halt to the underutilisation of this community asset.


Aerial view of Waniora Point, Bulli, with the Bulli tidal pool and associated structures visible on the southern side of the point (Source: Google Earth, 17 April 2009)


Bulli tidal baths, or pool, is located at Waniora Point, Bulli, in Wollongong’s northern suburbs. It is a publically owned pool, managed by Wollongong City Council. Originally constructed in 1938, it sits on a flat rock platform adjacent to an earlier, much smaller, tidal rock pool which had been cut out of a nearby rock outcrop known as Floyd’s Rocks. 


Original 1903-1938 Floyd’s Rocks tidal pool at Bulli. View looking easterly. This pool was constructed out of a rock outcrop located to the south of the present Bulli tidal pool. Its walls comprised both natural rock and concrete. Photograph circa 1910.  (Collection: Wollongong City Library)

Constructed in 1903 and expanded in 1921, the Floyd’s Rocks pool was 37 yards long at its final point of development. Evidence of the pool still remains, though its walls have been partially removed. For more detail of its construction and subsequent history refer Appendix 1: Historical Chronology.

Following strong lobbying from the local community and swimming clubs during the 1920s and 30s, a new, larger Olympic-sized pool 50 metres by 30 metres was constructed on the rock platform north of the old pool. It opened in 1938 and operated like all Illawarra tidal pools in that it was totally reliant on the normal ocean tides to bring water into the pool and, through employment of a natural, gravimetric circulation system, see that water exit the pool via outlets on the lower, western wall.

This natural flushing mechanism would maintain water quality for the life of the pool. No artificial pumping mechanism was needed, unlike the nearby Woonona and Thirroul saltwater pools which required pumps for both filling and emptying.

The deepest part of the pool was its eastern, sea side, with a depth of approximately 6 feet or 2 metres. As part of its construction, a large water valve was located on the lowest part of the south eastern wall, opposite the deepest part of the pool. This would enable regular emptying should the pool need cleaning as a result of the natural inflow of sand and seaweed, or to facilitate repairs due to the impact of the surf and the elements upon the concrete fabric.

The pool operated successfully from the time of opening in 1938. It was noted during this period that 75% of beach users also used the pool. Popular and heavily used through to the sixties and early seventies, the present underutilisation of the pool is therefore a matter of concern, especially as it is the direct result of alterations to the pool fabric and environs by Wollongong City Council since the late 1970s.


Bulli tidal pool circa 1960s. Note the heavy build up of sand around the south western corner of the pool (Collection: Wollongong City Library).


Bulli tidal pool circa 1960s. Note the popularity of the pool, with people standing on the western and southern walls (Collection: Wollongong City Library).

I was born in 1956 and grew up at Sandon Point, immediately to the north of Waniora Point, Bulli. I well remember as a child during the early sixties regularly swimming in Bulli pool, along with thousands of other people - locals and tourists alike. The pool’s water always seemed clean and refreshing to me. I can only recall it being closed rarely, due to the need to excavate sand from the western edge. I also distinctly remember that the water regularly flowed from the large outlets on the western wall, and as children we would spend a lot of time on hot summer days playing in the sand under these artificial waterfalls.

As kids we also had a lot of fun standing on the eastern sea wall of the pool and letting the breaking waves wash us into it during medium and high seas. This sort of fun is still an everyday occurrence at Austinmer tidal pool, which is subject to a more active water inflow regime then Bulli. However what was once common at Bulli is now a very rare occurrence, due to the recent installation of stainless steel handrails on the eastern wall which severely limit access and make it dangerous to walk along that portion of the pool (refer below for further discussion). 

There is no doubt that Bulli tidal pool was more heavily used in the years prior to the 1980s then it is at present, even though the number of beach users in the Illawarra continues to rise.

In the late seventies a small toddlers pool was constructed on the western side of the Bulli pool. The new pool was approximately half the width of the large pool and was built within the area that was subject to regular sand inundation. Water from the toddlers pool was obtained via two of the overflow vents from the larger pool.

It appears that as part of the construction of the toddlers pool, the walkway along the western edge of the main pool was built up and widened. This altered the water flow dynamics of the pool and severely restricted the natural flushing mechanism, giving rise to a deterioration in water quality affecting both the main pool and the new toddlers pool.

Local sentiment was that the toddlers pool should have been constructed to the south or north of the larger pool (i.e. in a similar manner to the Austinmer toddlers pool) and be subject to its own independent water flushing regime, rather then reliant upon irregular overflow from the main pool.

An unfortunate side effect of the construction of the toddlers pool was the fact that it also constrained water exit from the large pool during heavy seas – when the normal flushing mechanism was designed to operate at its peak. This can be seen in the following photographs which were taken at Bulli pool during October 2008 when there was a high tide and large swell. The ocean water was washing around all sides of both pools.

Bulli tidal pool, October 2008. Note the high tide and water flowing over and around the pools.  Bulli tidal pool and toddlers pool, October 2008. Note that the toddlers pool is full to overflowing.

The toddlers pool was full, and as a result water from the large pool was not able to completely flush out in a westerly direction due to the backwash effect from the toddlers pool. The flushing appeared to be operating below its required and designed capacity.


Bulli tidal pool and toddlers pool during high tide and heavy surf, October 2008. View looking northeast.

Water in the large pool was actually backwashing and exiting the pool in an easterly, seaward direction. As a result, the water in the main pool was not being flushed and was trapped due to the constraints imposed by the high level of the western wall, the small outlets and the full state of the toddlers pool.

This revealed to the author in a dramatic fashion the severely constrained flushing mechanism operating at Bulli tidal pool as a result of engineering works and additions carried out by Wollongong City Council since the late 1970s. Ideally the large amount of watering entering the pool at its eastern side during this high tide would have been able to flow unimpeded through the pool and over a  lower western wall, as  happens regularly at  Austinmer tidal pool. Through this mechanism the pool would have received a good flushing. However this was not occurring. Further aggravating the problem, dirty water associated with the high tide was entering the pool and not being flushed out. Therefore following the abatement of the high tide, the pool water quality very quickly deteriorated.

Construction of the toddlers pool also altered the sand movement regimes about the headland, and it was quickly noted by users that the toddlers pool readily filled with sand, requiring regular intervention by Council. Slimy water became a problem due to the limited flushing ability of the structure.  The more regular cleaning of both pools by Council only provided a temporary fix, and did not address the core problems.


Bulli pool being cleaned, 2005. View looking easterly from the headland. This has become a regular occurrence since the 1980s due to water quality problems, sand and seaweed inundation, and the inability of the pool to flush as originally designed.

Local users have, in fact, become so frustrated with the bad water quality in recent years that they have taken to emptying it out on their own initiative, through accessing the valve on the south eastern corner.

When the question of bad water quality is discussed, many locals blame the construction of the toddlers pool. However, what is not generally understood is the impact of the other major alteration to the pool structure by Wollongong City Council – namely, the building up of the walls.

At some point during the 1970s, and later, the main pool was altered by the addition of concreting on top of the original walls, resulting in their being raised an additional 6-12 inches. This was most noticeable on the western wall, where large sections of concrete were put in place to create a wider walkway, and the outflow vents were altered as a consequence. The northern and southern walls were also affected to a lesser degree, as was the eastern sea wall.

Northern wall of Bulli tidal pool, showing the addition of concrete over the original 1938 wall, along with the emplacement of stainless steel handrails. 16 April 2009. 


North eastern corner of Bulli tidal pool, showing additional concreting on the eastern wall, plus recently installed handrails which hinder patron access. 16 April 2009.

These constructions and alterations to the pool fabric were to have a dramatic impact upon the water quality within the pool as they resulted in the western wall being made higher than the eastern wall. This meant that the natural gravimetric flow of water from east to west through the pool was substantially impaired.

Building up the western wall restricted the ability of the pool to flush as it was originally designed. Water quality issues then began to appear regularly, and remain to this day.

It is inconceivable that Wollongong City Council could have made such basic changes to the fabric of Bulli tidal pool without being aware of the possible negative impacts on water quality and social amenity. Yet such is the case.

In order to restore the water quality of Bulli tidal pool to the consistently acceptable levels formerly enjoyed, the western wall needs to be made lower than the eastern wall so that water can flow in from the sea and out on a regular basis. This does not occur at present and as a result the water quality in the pool quickly deteriorates. The inflow of weed, seabird excrement, and pollution from normal human use further adds to the problem.

The issue of seabird excrement entering the pool in large quantities is only a recent one, yet is symptomatic of the mismanagement of the pool by Wollongong City Council in recent years. It has specifically come about as the result of the erection of stainless steel handrails along the northern side of the pool (refer pictures below).

These handrails were supposedly put in place to enhance safe use of the pool. Yet the result has been the complete opposite, due to the nature of the work carried out by Council. The handrails have actually been erected in such a position as to impair the ability of pool patrons to walk with ease along the pool walkways.

In regards to the northern wall, for example, by placing the handrails in the very centre of the walkway, it has now become precarious and in some ways dangerous to walk along this section of the pool. As a result, people do not do so to the degree they used to. I vividly recall children running up and down this part of the pool as they played or accessed the eastern sea wall. However in their place birds now roost at will, rarely disturbed by those few people using the pool. The nesting birds of course leave a lot of excrement behind, and this washes into the pool and adds to the ongoing water quality problems.


Northern wall of Bulli tidal pool, with seagulls resting on the concrete and stainless steel handrailing. A large amount of seagull excrement was observed on the pool wall (see picture below). 16 April 2009.


Northern wall of Bulli tidal pool, with seagull excrement visible. Note the placement of the handrails in the very middle of the walkway, thereby hindering access for adults and children alike. 16 April 2009.

The positioning of the handrails has therefore lead to an increase in the amount of bird excrement entering the pool. A problem has been created which never before existed to this degree.

It is also possible that polluted waters from the kiosk and toilets / changing rooms on the headland to the west enter the pool through ground water seepage and add to the water quality issue, however this is only conjecture.
It is unknown if any water flow and engineering studies were carried out by Wollongong City Council in the past to assess the impact works such as raising the walls and putting in place handrails would have upon the flushing ability of the main pool and its social amenity. The author is unaware of any community consultation concerning these works prior to their being undertaken.

As outlined above, since the 1980s it has become noticeable to locals that the water quality in Bulli pool is unacceptable on a regular basis. The state of the water is more often then not slimy, smelly, extremely salty and therefore practically unswimable.

Irregular calls by the community to fix the problem – most notably during 1998 - have resulted in Wollongong City Council regularly emptying the pool, removing sand and weed, and refilling it. They have also carried out minor repairs. However these are only temporary measures, and nothing has been done to address the core issue of ongoing poor water quality arising out of Council works which have adversely affected the pool’s ability to flush.

The outcomes of the 2006-7 Waniora Point coastal processes engineering assessment undertaken by Council are not known to this author, nor is it clear whether they address or make recommendations in regards to the large pool and toddlers pool. As it stands, the author is not aware of any plans by Wollongong City Council to deal with the various issues facing Bulli tidal pool.


Bulli tidal pool, looking south-west towards the eastern, sea wall. Note the additional concreting on the wall upper surface and the high level of the western wall, painted in blue. 16 April 2009.


1. Water Quality

Bulli tidal pool was originally constructed in 1938 to take the water flow from the surf swell on the eastern side and circulate it in a westerly direction through the pool for dispersal via outlets on the western, north-western and south-western sides. A modern day example of how this optimally operates can be seen at the Austinmer tidal pool, where on a daily basis water flows in from the eastern, seaward side and out over the western wall.

Unfortunately, as has been outlined above, over the years Wollongong City Council has built up the walls of Bulli pool on all sides, resulting in the westerly flow of water out of the pool being greatly reduced and all but cut off. The pool now no longer flushes on a regular basis. Instead, it fills up with water which quickly stagnates. In the past this water naturally flowed out of the western exit points and pool water quality was therefore maintained.

Due to this present day stagnation of the water, slime builds up quickly and the water becomes greasy, salty, unpleasant to swim in, and on occasion can give rise to skin irritation requiring medical attention. As a result, swimmers both local and visiting are turned away from using the pool. As it stands, the pool is underutilised, due in large part to the actions of Wollongong City Council.

As a local resident of 52 years I no longer swim in Bulli pool due to the bad water quality. I have not done so since the mid 1980s. I have also observed that on hot summer days the pool is not used by swimmers to the degree it was in the past. This is primarily due to the state of the water.

In order to restore the pool to its former condition, there are a number of actions which need to be carried out by Wollongong City Council:

1. Survey the pool site

A comprehensive survey of Bulli pool and its surrounds should be undertaken to determine ground and structure levels. This information should then be used to assess the amount and degree by which the pool walls need to be trimmed in order to restore the natural water flushing regime.

2. Lower the pool walls

At present the western wall is higher than the eastern wall. As a result, natural water flow from east to west is constrained except during periods of high tide, and even then optimal flushing does not occur due to the back flow effect created by the toddlers pool.

Council needs to trim the pool walls by the removal of concrete, thereby restoring them to their 1938 levels. The degree of removal will depend upon the surveys of the site which will identify the optimum level for restoration of the natural flushing regime.

There is an urgent need to cut down the walls on the western, southern and northern sides so water circulation in the pool is improved and water can easily flow in and out. There may also be a need to trim or reconfigure the eastern sea wall so that a greater volume of water can more easily flow into the pool.

The natural flow of water from east to west, and the flushing mechanism, needs to be restored. This is the most important change needing to be made.

Bulli pool should be re-engineered so that it operates in a manner similar to the tidal pool at Austinmer, which is noted by locals and residents for its clean water – the result of an active, natural flushing regime.

It is obvious that the major removal of concrete needs to occur on the western wall. This will impact up the toddlers pool, however it is recommended (see below) that the toddlers pool be removed, as this author considers it vital that the east-west flushing of the big pool be restored as a priority.

3. Increase the size of pool outlets

In order to optimise pool water quality, there needs to be a regular flow of water out of the pool along the western edge. Since construction in 1938, the size of the pool outlets have been diminished, in conjunction with the raising of the pool walls. What was once a weir is now a dam. One of the large outlets on the north-western corner of the pool has recently been replaced by a small diameter pipe, further constricting the flow of water out of the pool.

Small diameter outlet pipe replacing larger outlet, north western corner of pool, 16 April 2009    North western corner of pool showing small diameter outlet pipe (left) and extra concrete layers added to the western wall. 16 April 2009

The four main outlets on the western wall are also covered in concrete and encrusted with barnacles, thereby raising their surface level and impeding outflows.

As part of the lowering of the pool walls, the western water exit needs to be increased dramatically, by increasing the size of the pool outlets, or by making the western wall low enough to act as a weir - as operates with Austinmer pool. This will facilitate egress of water from the pool during normal tides.

4. Remove the toddlers pool

The construction of the toddlers pool has given rise to a blockage of two of the main western water outlets during high seas – at the very time when the pool is being flushed out to the maximum degree. Its placement also restricts natural sand movement around the headland and possibly aggravates deposition of sand in the main pool.

Removal of the toddlers pool and associated trimming down of the western wall will improve water circulation within the main pool and also allow for more natural sand movement and water flow around the main pool structure.

5. Construct a new pool ramp

This is a practical, cosmetic feature, however engineering assessment should be made of the optimum size and placement of the ramp so that it does not impede water flow or increase sand building up problems along the western and south-western edge of the pool. The new ramp should have vents to allow water and sand to flow over and through it.


“I've lived in Bulli for 20 years and only once swam in Bulli pool, long long ago. The water stank and I cut my toe on an oyster, so I thought never again. We use Woonona pool instead. The boys and I used to like walking around the edge of the pool, when the rail was located along the 'outside' of the wall. But the new rail, (replaced around May 2007 costing about $50,000), is located along the centre of the wall, so it's much harder to access. It's fun to stand on the end of the pool at high tide and get washed back in by the waves, but even that is far more risky now that the rail has been placed in the middle instead of the outside. As for the baby is pure filth...Jimmy Hobbs calls it the "polio pit". It's only clean for about a week after the Council empty out the sand and then it either fills up again with sand or the water just stagnates due to a lack of flow. I have never let my boys swim or play in the baby pool, never ever, it really is disgusting and should have been removed ages ago. There's plenty of natural shallow pools/ponds just north of the main pool anyway.. that's where heaps of kids swim and play, it's cleaner and probably safer as well. That's where I used to take my crew when they were small. Council should get rid of the baby pool as it blocks the south - north sand flows, (starving the Shark bay of sand.....and we saw the consequences of that in 2007), and limits the water flush of the main pool. Must cost Council a small fortune to continually clean it out. “(Local resident, April 2009)

2. Social Amenity

Apart from the major issue of poor water quality and its impact upon pool usage, the social amenity of Bulli pool has been affected by other works.

The relatively recent erection of intrusive stainless steel handrailings has had a negative effect on the usability of the pool, even though the community was informed that these handrails would enhance usability of the pool and improve safety. The opposite is the case.

Since the erection of these handrailings people are now no longer able to walk along the eastern edge of the pool with any stability or safety. As a result, sharp barnacles have begun to appear on the surface of the wall, due to lack of pedestrian traffic.

These barnacles cut one’s hands and feet, especially when an attempt is made to use the eastern edge of the pool by climbing out of the water. These barnacles now further limit the use of this once very popular section of the pool. A similar regime has been put in place on the northern and southern walls by the erection of handrails in the middle of the walkways.
Stainless steel hand railings on eastern wall of Bulli tidal pool. Note how the positioning of the handrails has severely limited the ability of pool patrons to walk safely along the eastern wall. 16 April 2009      View of barnacles on the surface of the eastern wall of Bulli tidal pool. Prior to the installation of these handrails there were no barnacles located on the wall surface, due to the regular use of the eastern wall by pool patrons. 16 April 2009.

The amenity of the Bulli tidal pool can be improved, and possibly restored to its former state, by carrying out a number of actions:

1. Remove / reposition the handrails on the eastern wall

These handrails should be completely removed, or moved to the far eastern edge of the pool wall so that people can walk along this section with ease and in safety, as in the past.

The author remains incredulous as to why the handrails were installed in such a dangerous position in the first place, with no obvious consideration of their impact upon pool users.

2. Move the handrails on the northern and southern sides of the pools further away from the water’s edge.

At present these hand rails have been placed in the middle of the pool wall surfaces, thereby severely constricting movement and making more dangerous the task of walking along the pool edges. This is made more problematic when the water of the pool is slimy, as it often is, or when bird excrement makes the concrete surface slippery, as now happens regularly on the northern wall.
Stainless steel hand railings on northern wall of Bulli tidal pool, 2005. This positioning allowed pool patrons to walk along the pool edge in safety.         

Northern pool wall – handrail in middle of walkway. 16 April 2009.

Summary Recommendations

In order to provide a permanent solution to the poor water quality problem at Bulli tidal pool and thereby enhance its usability for the local community and visitors alike, it is recommended that the following actions arising out this report be implemented as a matter of urgency by Wollongong City Council:

1. Carry out a comprehensive survey of the pool and its environs, with a view to reinstalling the Bulli tidal pool to its original 1938 configuration.

2. Cut down the walls on the western, southern and northern sides.  The height of the walls should be restored to their original 1938 levels. The level of the western wall should be lowered to enable natural flow of water out of the pool.

3. Cut down the eastern wall to enable a greater amount of water to flow into the pool.

4. Remove or reposition the handrails on the eastern wall of the pool. These are severely constraining usability of the sea wall by pool patrons and are in fact dangerous.

5. Move the hand rails on the northern and southern sides of the pools further away from the waters edge, thereby enabling full use of the pool wall upper surface walkways.

6. Remove the toddlers pool on the western side. This will assist in restoring the original flushing regime and facilitate movement of sand around Waniora Point.

7. Ensure that natural sand flow around the western edges of the pool is able to occur, to minimise sand build up. This may require reconfiguration of the pool ramp and removal of old concrete walls and structures beyond that associated with the toddlers pool.


View of the eastern wall of Bulli tidal pool, looking north, with the stainless steel handrailing located in the centre of the walkway, close to the water’s edge and restricting access. Note the barnacles on the lower right of the picture. This section of the pool is now unsafe due to the installation of the handrail. 16 April 2009.

Appendix 1: Bulli Tidal Pool

Historical Chronology

Compiled from the New South Wales Heritage Office web site & local newspapers


A meeting at Dickson's Hotel at Bulli sought funds to construct suitable baths for Bulli and Woonona and the local MP suggested applying for a lease of the foreshore. The enthusiastic meeting decided to form a swimming club and school clubs after the baths were erected.


A sub-committee of the Bulli Progress Association meeting at Dickson's Hotel sought funds for public baths for Bulli through the efforts of friendly societies, staging a concert on a grand scale, as well as soliciting for subscriptions throughout the district.

A total of 23 pounds was collected and 30 pounds subscribed at a meeting at Stokes Hotel in Bulli about construction of the Bulli Baths at Floyds Rocks at Waniora Point,  'where with little expense, nice baths can be erected close to all'.

By March 1902, 'the sea baths which Bulli was to have for this season and for which some 10 pound was collected is still all to make'.


Baths at Floyds Rocks, south of the present baths, were in use and 'crowded nearly all day' on the Sunday in March, when a collection was taken up for a bathing shed. Certain hours at the baths were set aside for ladies and others for gentlemen.


1903-38  Bulli tidal pool on Floyds Rocks, looking south towards Woonona Point.

1903-38 Bulli tidal pool on Floyds Rocks, looking north towards rocks at Waniora Point.


Time-segregated bathing was still in force at the Bulli Baths.


Bulli Shire Council was formed.


A gale washed away the change shed at the Bulli Baths.


Work on the rock pool began. By November, the contractor Mr T. W. Evans had finished enlarging the Bulli Baths. The Bulli Surf Bathers and Life Saving Club was praised for the way it had worked to secure the money from an Easter Monday carnival,  members' subscriptions and donations, when other clubs had tried for the previous four years to raise sufficient funds.

While the new baths were 35 yards long and considered 'as good as any outside of the city', the surf club hoped to widen them if the support was forthcoming.


Bulli Beach and its Baths were transformed thanks to the beach improvement committee. New baths twice the size of the original were built adjoining the old baths.


Electric light was installed and used at the baths.

A Sydney team gave a fine exhibition at a February Sunday carnival at the Bulli Baths attended by 1,500 people.


The Baths had been in excellent condition and much patronised during the holidays. The annual meeting of the Bulli Progress Association entrusted its secretary with attending to repairs, enlarging and cleaning of the Bulli Baths.

Bulli Shire Council agreed to supply Bulli Amateur Swimming Club with a medicine chest and allowed the Club to have sole use of the baths for a carnival on Easter Monday. That carnival included events for males and females as well as novelty events such as a barrel race, egg and spoon race and tightrope walking.

The Bulli Amateur Swimming Club also wanted to extend the baths and enclose the verandah on the lower part of the dressing sheds to form a club room. Council allowed the Bulli Swimming Club to use timbers from the old dressing-shed at Bulli Point to build seats around the baths and a club room and provide electric light poles for night carnivals at the baths. Bulli Swimming Club supplied Council with names of people to act as beach inspectors and argued that the pavilion was dangerous and should be demolished.

Members of a Tramway Swimming Club competed with the Bulli club at the Bulli Baths. The Bulli club's lady members put on a swimming exhibition, the diving troupe performed and the Tramway team gave an exhibition of water-polo. Ignoring the history of water-polo at Kiama, the Illawarra Mercury, referred to the water polo exhibition at Bulli as 'the first game played on the South Coast'.
In September 1928, the Bulli Progress Association asked Council to pay 10 pounds to the Swimming Club for additions and repairs to the baths.

December 1928 saw another demonstration organised by the Bulli Amateur Swimming Club, featuring the Bulli Diving troupe and exhibitions of diving and swimming by the lady members.


The Bulli Progress Association was suggesting Council increase the size of the Bulli Baths.


The Bulli Surf Club asked Council to budget for enlargement of the Bulli Baths, which were patronised by 75% of the people who visited the beach. The headmaster of the Bulli School also suggested improvements to the bath that would remove the need to taken school children to Austinmer for swimming lessons. Council refused the school's request for a subsidy to address the cost of transporting school children to the baths.


Bulli Council accepted a tender for 1,871 pounds 12 shillings and sixpence from a Sydney firm to construct the new Bulli Baths, an  Olympic-sized pool with a children's pool. These new baths were intended to add to the attraction of Bulli Beach and stimulate still-water swimming competitions.
A large crowd attended the opening of the 50-metre by 30-metre  pool by Cr Thompson, a man who would have liked it made compulsory for every boy and girl to learn to swim. The NSW ASA swimming stars at the opening carnival included four Empire Games representatives, as well as the female state diving and junior breast stroke champions. The carnival included an old buffers race, a schoolboys race and music from the Wollongong Steelworks Band.


Bulli Shire was close to achieving its stated desire of having baths along the coast from Woonona to Clifton and was spending 1,000 pounds a year on baths.


The ramp leading to the baths was to be removed and an opening made in the north end of the kiosk to give access to the ladies dressing shed. Construction of a children's baths was 'to be proceeded with when conditions permit'.


The Bulli Local Committee wanted the baths emptied and the sand and seaweed removed.


No funds were available to clear a fair amount of seaweed from the Bulli Baths.


The Bulli Local Committee wanted alterations to the valve at the Bulli Baths.


The Bulli Shire Council was amalgamated with other Illawarra councils to form the City of Greater Wollongong. 


Founding of the Bulli High School, which used the pool for school sports and learn-to-swim classes.
Australian champion swimmer, Jon Henricks, swam in front of a crowd of over a thousand people at a carnival at the Bulli baths. Henricks later swam for Australia at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.


Formation of the Brass Monkeys winter swimming club.


Winter swimming club renamed the Bulli Park Sea Lions.


Wollongong Council's town planner advised that development of the indoor pool complex proposed by Bulli Surf Club was neither legal nor desirable and would restrict access to the rock baths. Council assented to development of the project which was later ruled out until changes were made to the Local Government Act to permit surf clubs to build swimming pools as well as gymnasiums.


Bulli Park Sea Lions winter swimming club admitted its first female members.


A bike path behind the beach linked Bulli with Woonona Beach.


6 February Report (Illawarra Mercury) on problems with Bulli pool: Bulli residents claim their local swimming hole is nothing more than a big cesspool. Mal Roberts believes swimming in Bulli pool is making people sick. At a meeting held at Bulli Workers Club yesterday, a petition was launched to try to force Wollongong City Council to sit up and take notice of the pool's potential health risks. Mr Roberts said the pool needed more attention than monthly draining and refilling. The area of concern is a deeper section at the ocean end of the pool where a mixture of seaweed and other ocean rubbish has collected. Because of the hole, the rubbish remained, even after the pool was drained and refilled, he claimed. "You have to see the pool empty to find out just how bad the hole is. It's just indescribable what it's full of," Mr Roberts said. Other residents share Mr Roberts' concerns. Bob Townsend, of Woonona, took his grandsons for a swim at Christmas and claimed he suffered a rash that needed medical attention. He believed the rash was caused by the state of the pool water. While the pool continues to attract up to 300 visitors a day, Bulli Beach Kiosk owner Mike Knight believes the majority are tourists. He says the number of locals using the pool has decreased dramatically in recent times. "When I first came to the kiosk three years ago, there was twice the number of people swimming here of a morning. And every month, you see it dropping off even more," Mr Knight said. "People come up and ask me if the pool is safe to swim in, and what can I say? I tell them that the pool was last drained three weeks ago, but to go down and decide for themselves."  Bulli High School students use the pool regularly for school sports and learn-to-swim classes. School principal Bill Kennedy said that although he and many of the parents were concerned about the possible health risks, he knew of no cases where students had been affected directly. The council's environment and recreation officer Greg Fisher said the standards of cleaning at Bulli Pool had not slipped. The pool was cleaned about twice a month on average. "We are re-assessing the quotes we've had to fix the pool and we are looking at possible alternatives as well," he said.

19 February Report (Illawarra Mercury) on problems with Bulli pool: Northern suburbs residents lobbying Wollongong City Council to repair a deep hole in the Bulli rock pool have threatened to escalate their campaign. Yesterday pensioner Mal Roberts delivered a 1000-signature petition to the council's acting general manager, Tony Roach. But he warned if the council couldn't find the money needed to rectify ongoing problems at the pool, he'd be calling in support from winter swimming groups and schools. "They say it could cost as much as $200,000 to put in a concrete floor, but residents have been paying rates for years. Surely they have enough in the kitty to fix the problem." Mr Roberts, who used to regularly use the pool, said he hadn't been near the water lately because he believed it posed a real health hazard. He said seepage from the hole formed a smelly, dirty sludge and a proper concrete base was the only way to fix the problem. "You wouldn't believe the smell of it," said Bulli Workers' Club president Neville Sweeney, who accompanied Mr Roberts to the council offices yesterday to deliver the petition. "It's just like swimming in sewage." Mr Roberts said despite Mr Roach's assurances that the council was investigating the cost of options for rectifying the problem, he was anything but hopeful. "Three engineers who were out at the pool last week told me we're not even on the agenda for this year, next year, or the year after that." He said he had been fighting to have something done for three years, and it was at least 30 years since anything had been done to the pool.

14 March Report (Illawarra Mercury) that Council had agreed to spend $20,000 to clean up Bulli pool: Authorities have agreed to spend up to $20,000 on ridding Bulli Pool of sludge. Residents met Wollongong City Council yesterday and reached an agreement to fill in a hole that has been collecting rubbish and polluting the pool. A full renovation at the pool, at a cost of more than $120,000, could be done within two years. Resident spokesman Mal Roberts said he was happy with the agreement which would alleviate poor swimming conditions at the pool. "The council has come to the party and agreed to fill in the hole within five to six weeks," Mr Roberts said. "I believe it's a win-win situation for the residents and the council." A 1000-signature petition was handed to the council last month complaining about the state of the pool, one resident describing it as "like swimming in sewage". The hole, at the deeper end of the rock pool, had collected seaweed and other ocean refuse. Seepage from the hole was forming a smelly sludge on the pool's surface. Mr Roberts said he had been fighting to have something done to the pool for three years and it was at least 30 years since anything had been done. Mr Roberts said the council had indicated they would consider a full refurbishment of the pool within two years.


Bulli's Olympic-size ocean pool remained an attraction for weekend visitors and those not confident in the surf.

The council-run caravan park on Bulli Beach mainly attracted tourists from western and southern Sydney, with its 160 permanent sites for regular weekend visitors and 120 tourist sites that filled quickly each school holidays.


The rock pool was an attraction for visitors to the area's B&Bs (Bed and breakfast establishments), despite local complaints that the main pool was full of algae and slime and the toddlers pool was full of sand.


20 December - Report (Illawarra Mercury) on problems with the children’s pool at Bulli filling up with sand all the time and making it unusable.


24 August Press Release - Wollongong City Council is commissioning a study to find ways to protect Waniora Point at Bulli from headland erosion and sand build up.. The Coastal Processes and Restoration Study will  explore human activity and natural processes in the area to determine reasons for the erosion and the build up of sand at the children’s rock pool below. The Lord Mayor, Councillor Alex Darling, said due to the sensitive location and frequent use of Waniora Point, it was imperative Council commission a study to identify all issues before any restoration work commenced. “We are inviting quotes from consultants this week and look forward to beginning investigations in late September. The study will involve analysis of the area as well as consultation with residents,” Councillor Darling said. “The process is expected to take three months and when finalised, Council will approach the state government for funding under the Coastal Management Program.” Interested residents will have the opportunity to share their views on Waniora Point throughout the study.

23 November Press Release - A study is underway to help solve the problem of erosion and sand build up at the popular Waniora Point headland at Bulli. Through a competitive quotation process, Wollongong City Council has selected engineering company Patterson Britton and Partners to undertake the significant three month investigation. The consultants will explore human activity and natural processes at Waniora Point to determine reasons for headland erosion and sand build up in the children’s rock pool below. The Sydney based company has extensive experience in coastal studies and was recently commissioned by the Department of Natural Resources to assess headland erosion along the entire New South Wales coast line. The Lord Mayor, Councillor Alex Darling, said in order to develop a suitable solution for the Waniora headland, the community will be called on to share their views on future management of the site. “Patterson Britton and Partners will complete a range of studies, taking into account coastal, geotechnical, environmental, recreational, aesthetic and heritage issues,” the Lord Mayor said. “The company will then present a comprehensive report to Council in February, including a range of prioritised solutions that take into account   the results of these studies and consultation with the community.”

Heritage  Significance

The Bulli Baths are historically significant because they demonstrate the evolution of simple pools on rock platforms into formalised ocean baths, offering time-segregated bathing for males and females into a 50-metre sport and recreation facility complete with wading pool.

The development of this site coincided with the growth of amateur swimming, the pursuit of aquatic sports, the move to mixed bathing on beaches and baths and the use of ocean pools as training facilities for lifesavers and others and acceptance of the 50 metre Olympic pool as the desirable competition/training pool.

Assessed significance: Local.

Current heritage status: Not yet given heritage status.


Australia’s modern swimmers and ocean baths [web site]. Australian Government Cultural and Recreation Portal, Canberra. Accessed 14 April 2009.

Bulli Ocean Pool [web site]. New South Wales Heritage Office, Sydney. Accessed 14 April 2009.

New South Wales Ocean Baths [web site], NSW Heritage Office, Sydney. Accessed 14 April 2009.

Oliver Merrington, Tidal salt-water open air swimming pools [web site], Waterbeach, Cambridge, UK. Accessed 14 April 2009.


Children playing on the eastern sea wall of Bulli tidal pool during a big swell, January 2009. Note the water flowing out over the southern wall, indicating the high energy level of the sea at this time.

Michael Organ
Last updated: 20 March 2017

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