A local newspaper ran a story on Nov 21st titled “Harvey Ball sticks by Tara Apartments signs at former motel, despite complaints” asking readers “The Tara Apartments developer has refused to remove new highway signs, despite complaints... What do you think?” Within hours the newspaper's Facebook page was awash with hurtful and negative comments... "The signs looks like they are opening up a Brothel…the signs are misogynistic, offensive, misleading and badly thought through.”“lazy and uninspired choice of stock imagery that promotes the objectification of women to help promote your business….So sick of the female body being exploited by men… Does he only want men to stay in his hotels? Are they actually brothels?” “You are a sexist pig Harvey Ball….I'm sick of disgusting old men like Harvey Ball…they probably don't adhere to council sign standards either, I'm sure they will be removed sooner rather than later… people like you ruin innocent towns like ours... It’s disgusting.” “Great image for our kids to see particularly on the main highway through town…. Welcome to Narooma's brothel (for the elderly). Need to be taken down….I think this blokes a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic….get a load of this weirdo creeping out Narooma haha” The newspaper have allowed these denigrating comments to remain on their social media page. The nay-sayers enjoyed their five minutes of social media rant and then most likely went on to their next crusade. Some, however, contacted Council. Fortunately, to offer balance to the negative comments that were posted, came comments of support... “I honestly can't see a problem with the sign. The same people complaining about this are probably the same people who are complaining about Huntfest. The sign isn't offensive at all, you can't see anything inappropriate…..Don't take the sings down. People in this town need to get a life. We should be worried about the drugs, ice and housing issue's in Narooma…I think it's a stretch to say the sign is offensive in this day and age.. “Harvey Ball good luck with it all I think it's great mate... one thing you learn with Narooma everyone has to have an opinion with everything anyone does.” “Its funny how the very sensitive have never said anything about a surf shop or protested about the tits and bums on surfing adds on TV. Yep some people really need to get a life…. At the end of the day the signs are no different to what's plastered all over the surf shop window. That's the way life works. Find something important to whinge about.” With little more than a “numerous complaints” and the local newspaper's on-line slideshow of the “offending” signs to refer to, a Council Officer wrote an email to Mr Ball at 12:32pm that same day “recommending that the signs be removed to forestall any further offence being caused to members of the local community” due to “numerous complaints being lodged with Council” and that “Council also has concerns with regard to the appropriateness of the content of the signs and compliance with Council policy and conditions of consent” and “the matter was currently under investigation and further action may be taken pending discussions” This very straightforward, formal, abrupt and authoritative email was signed by a member of the Public, Environmental Health and Compliance Unit Mr Ball had spent the morning under social media attack due to the newspaper article and, in an already stressed frame of mind, then had to also come to terms with a latent threat from an email from Council's Compliance Unit. The sad case in all of this is that the article in the local newspaper built a fire that didn't deserve a spark and distracted the Narooma public from learning more of Mr Ball’s plans for the complex that he calls "Tara". Tara was purchased and developed in stages by the late Mrs Ogden from 1963 as a motel and restaurant until she sold it out to the De La Salle Brothers of the Catholic Church about 25 years ago.
They developed it further to be the La Sallian Centre, and then shut it in 2012 due to continuing losses. It then stood on the open market for sale for four years in a gradually decaying condition until Mr Ball purchased it in March, 2016.
He commenced repairs and renovations to the motel and had preliminary discussions with council to demolish the chapel complex and build a 21st century signature building in its place. After eight months of renovations he announced his plans to help the disadvantaged and give a home to the group known as “Forum for a Fairer Australia”.
Harvey put up the first Tara sign and gave a copy of the Forum for a Fairer Australia “Australia Plan” as a work in progress to the local paper.
When he put up the remaining signage the police received complaints that he had erected a sign with a penis and wrote to the council. Mr Ball advised the Beagle Weekly that “the police came and were bemused about the falsity of the complaint and left content that there had been no offensive behavior”.
Harvey goes on “However the local council, without even visiting the site or Mr Ball jumped in and the local paper decided to run a contentious and salacious story rather than the concept of a fairer Australia and help for the disadvantaged.”
Mr Ball is not a new comer to the area and like many understands that the town has a darker underbelly of drugs, alcoholism, domestic violence, psychological disorders, racism and intolerance. For these good folk of Narooma their options are further limited by poverty or by simply falling through the gaps of social services. Many of those falling between the gaps also fall outside of being able to rent as they are “not desirable”. Harvey told the Beagle Weekly that he grew up poor, however, he said he was lucky to have been poor as it gave him a better perspective on life and an appreciation of making the best of everything. He also said the “I was lucky to have been born in a country where there was work for all. Now things have changed and I can empathise with those who are doing it hard”.
So Harvey thought to himself that, at seventy years of age, having lived a good life, if not a hard life, it was time to give back and offer something to the poor, the disadvantaged and the down trodden. Having already built a school for underprivileged kids in Indonesia Harvey wanted to do something closer to home. In his home town of Narooma. He bought Tara and began renovating. Being a builder he recognised its solid bones and knew it could sustain a rebuild that would transform once pokey motel rooms into modern yet affordable, self contained holiday accommodation apartments.
The function centre at the front of the complex will house the “Forum for a Fairer Australia” promoting “freedom for all and injustice to none” and that is exactly what one of the signs say. Harvey believes the La Sallian centre promoted their good works using the very same sign panels and now the Tara Centre was using them to promote fairness, freedom and justice.
As part of that ethic 20% of the renovated complex will be made available to the poor for longer term accommodation, as is already the case. His dream is that the restaurant will offer low priced nutritious meals on a daily basis. The conference area is already furnished with comfortable lounges with the intention to develop it as a social hub, removed from the difficult environments they've escaped. Somewhere where you might find good conversation and maybe even dabble in discussions about a fairer Australia.
People might now have an opinion of Mr Harvey Ball from reading the tabloids or the vile comments in social media and Harvey says simply “Now you may not like me, my signs, or what I am doing. I say, that is your right. But it is mine to do what I am doing at Tara, in “my last dance”.
And why "Tara"?
“Tara” is to Harvey, an unashamedly beautiful woman promoting the Tara complex in an artistic, modern, 21stcentury and fun way and, like any woman, demanding her own freedoms while fighting injustice.
She was named after Tara in Ireland, the place of rallying of the people against oppression. “I hope you get it.” Hervey says. “But if you don’t it’s OK. Those I am helping give me enough sustenance to carry on fighting for them.” As you can see there is a wonderful story here of generosity of spirit, of a dream of a good man giving back and of a man having some simple fun with some signs that he, and many other, believe are simply that … fun. But alas the media animal took the easy road to sales and ran a story that would get them the click-bait of revenue they needed leaving behind an none-the-wiser public and a publicly castigated and vilified victim. Adding to it then came the wrath of Council bearing down via an authoritative and deemed threatening email suggesting immediate removal of the signs pending an investigation that might bring further actions. The Beagle Weekly has asked Council to specifically provide references to the conditions of consent Mr Ball might have broken or extracts of the Signs Policy and SEP 64 of the NSW Planning Act that he might have contravened or absolute clarity on which aspects of the signs are inappropriate or obscene by the definition of the words and how the images differ from any found on a local surf shop or a glossy magazine cover outside any news agency on any given day. At the time of publishing this article none have been forthcoming. To end this article the Beagle Weekly has chosen a photo of Mr Harvey Ball rather than to show images of the signs that have sadly distracted the community from the wonderful project and dream Harvey has for Tara.