West Ballina's Big Prawn
West Ballina's Big Prawn David Neilsen

Big Prawn 'escapes the net'

NEVER fear, Big Prawn fans - your favourite crustacean is here to stay.

It's going to cost a lot of money, but Bunnings, the new owner of the prawn site at West Ballina, has decided this is one Australian icon that just can't be demolished.

Instead the hardware giant is planning to give the beloved creature a bit of a makeover.

And it will be moved so it has pride of place at the entry to the new store.

Managing director John Gillam said the company had recognised the "importance of the Big Prawn to many in the Ballina community".

"At this stage as part of our development we hope to refurbish the existing giant prawn structure and relocate it near the entry to the site," he told The Northern Star yesterday.

"A development application has recently been lodged with council for the new store and a community information session will be held on November 26.

"If approved, this development will replace our existing Ballina store, employing all 40 current team members from there as well as a further 70 new permanent positions."

Mr Gillam said the new store, as well as providing 70 jobs for local residents, would also create an additional 165 jobs during construction.

Ballina Mayor Phillip Silver said the Big Prawn's survival was good news.

"I am delighted the little fellow has escaped the net and will live on," he said.

The application for Bunnings' $12 million development has now been lodged with Ballina Shire Council.

Acting regulatory services group manager Vince Hunt said the application would go on public exhibition by the end of the week.

"It will then go through the normal processes," he said.

The Big Prawn has been one of Australia's best-loved "big things" since it was built in 1990 at a cost of $500,000.

Approval to build the prawn was first granted by the council in 1988, despite staff recommending the project not go ahead because of the building's height and bulk.

There were 163 objections from the community to the proposal.

Demolition of the Big Prawn and other structures on the site was approved by the council in September 2009, and The Northern Star reported the decision had prompted a "lengthy debate" among councillors.

The community has long had a love/hate relationship with the giant crustacean.

While many people wanted to save the Big Prawn because it is a famous tourist attraction, others said it was tired, faded and well past its use-by date.

The West Ballina site was put on the market in May last year and sold to Bunnings this year.