Australia’s Big Things left to rot by state tourism

In Featured Home Page News, National Headlines


THE big bull lost his testicles, the prawn faded and was sold to Bunnings, the rainbow trout lost its colour. Is it time to face the fact that Australia’s big things are a big tourism fail?

They were the iconic moments of a trip around Australia. The Big Banana, the Big Prawn, the Big Pineapple, the Big Rainbow Trout, the Big Bull and even the Big Potato. But like fondue sets and lazy susans, the big things are no longer amazing.

Some have fallen into disrepair. Others constantly struggle to replace stolen parts. Some have been pulled down or become victims of sabotage. The big things have become a big headache and Australian tourism has moved on.

“Like most Australians, both as a child and now as a parent, I have fond memories of encountering Australia’s big fruit, big vegetables and big animals during many car drives across Australia,” Tourism Australia boss Andrew McEvoy said.  “They were often the memorable sign-posts to great road trips.”

“They’re certainly eye-catching and have undoubtedly helped put a lot of Australian towns on the map.

“Globally though, I’d argue tourism has probably moved on a bit and the success of tourism attractions is much more about the people and the experience, rather than the icon.”

Big things leave behind a big bill

When the icon goes bad, there’s often not much local councils or tourism bodies can do to save it. The big things cost a lot of money to maintain.

Many are privately owned giving councils no control over the standard of their icon. Where they are owned by the public, many towns can not afford to keep up the maintenance without extra financial support. In a choice between fixing a 10 metre vegetable replica and fixing a pot-holed road , the road will always win.

Weighing in at 2.5 tonnes and measuring 10 metres in height Adaminaby’s Big Rainbow Trout in the Snowy Mountains still holds the illustrious title of the world’s biggest trout.

The problem is that is hasn’t been rainbow coloured for a long time. It’s silver, cracking and the scales are falling apart. It’s been that way for a while. The $60,000, bill for restoration was “completely beyond the fund raising capabilities of Adaminaby’s small rural community”.

So they called for donations. And set up a “friends of the fish committee”. Early this year workers finally began restoration work paid for by contributions from the NSW state government, the Snowy River Shire Council, and hundreds of private donations from locals and visitors. It was put on hold for the winter. So the rainbow fish is still waiting for his colourful scales.

The Big Prawn at Ballina, built in 1990 on the NSW north coast, was once a thriving service station, restaurant, bar and bait and tackle shop. It was a destination. But over the last five to ten years it fell into disrepair. The paint faded, the shops closed and council debated whether it was possible to demolish the iconic building.

Paul Hickey, General Manager of Ballina Shire Council said the council had no control over the state of the prawn since it was privately owned.

“The owners of the service station made a conscious decision to get out of the business. Over the last five to ten years it had very little maintenance,” Mr Hickey told

Enter Bunnings who reportedly bought shelled out $10 million for the 2.5 hectare site. Ballina Shire council says the hardware giant plans to keep the prawn, add a tail (it’s only three-quarters of a crustacean) and paint it in Bunnings’ red.

For some reason Bunnings are being mysterious about their plans for the prawn. No one will confirm whether the crustacean is going to be painted or made whole.

All they will say is that the local community was keen to keep it.

But it’s because they like it, not because the big things bring in tourists. Unlike 80’s fashion and fluoro, the holiday trend of going out of your way to visit big things is well and truly dead, not to be resurrected.

“I still see people getting their photo taken in front of it. It may not drag the tourists in here, but once they are here people have a look,” Mr Hickey said.

Big things attract unwanted attention

Sabotage and vandalism hit many of the big things hard.

Warchope also on the North Coast of NSW was once the home of the Big Bull. Built by farmer John Eggert the bull was 14 meters tall and more than 20 meters long. It was home to a gift shop and a display on – of all things – beef. It had a set of swinging testicles that were constantly being stolen.

Apart from the cost of constantly making and replacing testicles, the bull also caused security concerns for its owners. So much so that they decided to pull it down in 2007.

“We had a lot of people coming onto the property taking photographs and wandering around and wandering into your house and people just wanted to come and look at the big bull and when we told them it wasn’t open, they’d get quite upset, John Eggart’s brother Paul told ABC radio.

“You’d hear the kids crying, ‘I want to see the Big Bull, mummy,’ and mum and dad wouldn’t be happy because they couldn’t see the big bull.”

Queensland’s Big Pineapple, opened in 1971. In 1972, the attraction was the recipient of the first award presented by the Australian National Travel Association for a tourist development in Queensland. It went into receivership in 2009. At the time the owners owed the ATO $533,700. It was sold to a local farming family in 2010.

Two years later police were called to investigate after someone snuck into the attraction and put grease onto the newly restored plantation tree ride.

Tourists too complain of being disappointed by our big things. In an online newspaper report on the addition of waterslides to the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour Hornet2222 writes: “Tell me the big banana is going to get a complete revamp the place very old and very tired. It desperately needs work.”

Not all the big things are dying. But they are not the destination or tourist drawcard they used to be. If people are in a town with a big rocking horse, they’ll have their photo taken in front of it, but tourists are not going out of their way to see a giant apple. They’ve done that years ago. They want more.

So is it time Australia got over the big things? That’s up to tourists to decide.


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