Book review: Port Alfred – Its coming of age, by Mike Neave

RECENT HISTORY: Mike Neave’s new coffee table book on the recent history of Port Alfred

Review by Rob Knowles

Former mayor of Port Alfred, Mike Neave, has produced a book highlighting his period as a councillor and mayor during some of the most tumultuous times in the holiday town.

During his tenure as a councillor from 1985 to 1992, and as mayor, from 1986 to 1988, Neave oversaw some of the biggest developments the town and the area in general, have seen. Neave was mayor when the Royal Alfred Marina and small boat harbour were proposed, approved and development began, when the 43 Air School, then derelict since the end of World War 2, was revitalised and also when Sol Kerzner’s Fish River Sun was commissioned.

Neave’s book is a collection of newspaper articles, predominantly from local and regional cuttings, with his own commentary and opinions on the matters arising. Although Neave’s narrative is from his own perspective, he does not shy away from some of the more controversial topics, specifically when it comes to the marina development.

The book begins with the early history of the town and the various names by which it was known; from its beginnings as a barren village of perhaps a dozen houses on the banks of the Kowie River in the 1820s, to a well-organised bustling town in the early 1990s. During its early history the East and West Banks were effectively two towns as the only passage between them was a ferry over the Kowie River. William Cock is mentioned along with his plan to widen the Kowie River mouth to allow for a harbour to be constructed and, although his initial plans did not come to fruition because of lack of funding the harbour was eventually built and served the town until the 1940s. It was then, during the war years that 43 Air School was initially commissioned.

Neave explains the building of the iconic Nico Malan Bridge that saw a national road (R72) running through the town, increasing traffic flow and, consequently, encouraging more people to move to the area. In 1984 local businessman, Justin de wet Steyn approached the council regarding developments at the East Bank Flats due, in part, to the scourge of “Lagoon Ear” and various other ailments being encountered by residents from e.coli contamination of the lagoon water. Proposals for the development of the marina began.

For the full review, see this week’s edition of Talk of the Town.

Copies of the book are available at the Royal Alfred Marina or at the Sunshine Coast Tourism office.

Leave a Reply