Chamber of Commerce proposal of 'rainbow walk' deferred until after marriage equality plebiscite

The rainbow crossing on Oxford St, Sydney in 2013
The rainbow crossing on Oxford St, Sydney in 2013

Dolly Parton famously said that ‘if you want a rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain’.

And the Nambucca Heads and Valla Chamber of Commerce have copped a bit of rain on their parade after an impassioned community discussion over their idea for an installation of a ‘rainbow walk’ footpath in the main street of Nambucca Heads.

There was lively debate at last week’s council meeting as president of the Chamber of Commerce, Christian Knight, spoke to the proposal from the floor.

A painted multi-coloured footpath was envisaged outside the Nambucca Heads police station on the corner of Bowra and Ridge streets, following the natural arc of the corner like a rainbow.

Mr Knight said the idea was adopted after a unanimous decision at the last Chamber of Commerce meeting as a novel way to lure tourists into the small coastal village.

“Community groups have been asked to identify selfie spots,” Mr Knight said.

“We think with the appropriate signage it would be very popular.

“Tafe students are already painting poles along Bowra St, we propose to extend that program to include the rainbow walk, with the Chamber of Commerce footing the bill for the paint.”

The idea was influenced by the popular Oxford St rainbow crossing in Sydney which marked the 35th anniversary of the Mardi Gras.

That crossing was infamously removed amid concerns for pedestrian safety after CCTV cameras recorded people laying down on the crossing in the name of the perfect selfie.

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The Chamber of Commerce’s proposal initially asked for the consideration of a rainbow crossing on Bowra St, but that idea was amended at the eleventh hour to a ‘rainbow footpath’ after similar safety concerns were raised.

Council general manager Michael Coulter said the matter was discussed at a Manex meeting on August 23 and that, according to RMS, the proposal did ‘not comply with Australian standards’. 

“The problem with the one in Sydney was it was too popular,” Mr Knight said.

“Dealing with RMS and safety standards, we could see it was never going to go anywhere fast.

“But a rainbow walk is in sync with our community – Nambucca Heads is a very inclusive society.”

Michelle Walker disagreed with the initial rainbow crossing proposal on grounds of public safety.

“The NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the [Sydney] crossing needed to be removed for safety concerns,” Ms Walker said.

“I think it’s time we learnt from history.”

When asked by Councillor Anne Smyth if she had any objections to the amendment of a rainbow footpath, Ms Walker said she did based on personal beliefs.

“God has created us with differences, sadly our differences are used against us,” Ms Walker said.

“I am disappointed that God’s rainbow has been taken and is being used as the gay pride flag.

“We have an area of the community where freedom and diversity is practised – the V-Wall.

“I really don’t see the need to celebrate diversity in the middle of Nambucca Heads. We’re already doing that.”

Robyn Handcock also spoke to her concerns of a rainbow anything. 

“I would much rather walk any crossing, black and white, in unity and harmony, rather than in diversity,” Ms. Handcock said.

“This particular idea is being forced on us when we’re not too keen on it yet. I’m sure it will come.”

“This is the first thin edge of the wedge.”

Ms Handcock then quoted the gospel of Mark: ‘Let no one split apart what God has brought together’.

“There’s no better way to split apart God’s will than by rainbow diversity,” Ms Handcock said.

Ms Handcock also questioned what impact a brightly-coloured footpath would have on people with low-vision, dementia and ADHD.

Cr John Ainsworth also had objections to the proposal based on the last-minute amendment of the rainbow crossing to a ‘rainbow footpath’.

He made a motion for an amendment to the proposal which passed unanimously that the whole decision about the rainbow walk be deferred until ‘risk ramifications’ had been addressed about the painting of the footpath in bright colours.

Mr Knight was in agreement with holding off consideration of the proposal, particularly until after the same-sex marriage plebiscite had run its course.

“We don’t want council to be drawn in any way into the debate to do with the plebiscite,” Mr Knight said.