the stroms

PEG’s story began in 1988 when a Bicentennial project restored the old St Luke’s church, the oldest building on the Peninsula, as the Woy Woy Environment Centre (WWEC). The work was partly funded by Spike Milligan. The building was moved from its original location in Orange Grove to its current location on the corner of Blackwall Rd and Billabong St.

A group, the Friends of Woy Woy Environment Centre, was set up to manage the centre. This group was a type of Gosford Council committee, called a 355 committee, made up of volunteer community members but still a part of Council. The key figures at that time were Allen and Beryl Strom (pictured above), also prominent in the wider NSW environment movement.

The hall functioned as a drop-in centre, open most days. In those days, before the internet, it was often hard to find environmental information, and volunteers at the centre provided information and kept press cuttings on environmental issues, as well as holding meetings and talks. A Gosford Council environmental officer also worked out of the centre two days a week, providing environmental planning information.

Following the deaths of Allen Strom in 1997 and Beryl in 2003, the centre gradually became less active. At the same time, the development of the internet meant environmental information became more readily available and there was less need for a drop-in information centre.

Around 2006-07 a new “generation” (including Mark Mann, Zainem Ibrahim and Mark Snell, and subsequently Grant Focas, Gemma Garner, Cheryl Walker, Joachim Muller, Ian Garradd and others) joined the Friends of WWEC and revived what had become a moribund group. In order to have some independence from Gosford Council, in 2008 this group also set up the Peninsula Environment Group (PEG) as an incorporated non-profit association to run activities, while concurrently maintaining the Friends of Woy Woy Environment Centre committee to manage the centre. With the aid of a Gosford Council grant, PEG refurbished the hall and landscaped the centre’s grounds with endemic local plants.

PEG began by holding monthly meetings with talks and films screenings. However, we decided after a while we were “preaching to the converted” and started to instead run projects aimed to encourage and facilitate sustainable living on the Peninsula.

The first such project was the PEG Food Network. This currently has around 30-40 members ordering organic/chemical-free food and other eco-friendly products.

In 2008 and 2009, PEG held an annual Sustainable Living Day at the centre, with food, music and talks. This led to a bigger event, the Woytopia sustainable living festival, held at Woy Woy South Public School. Woytopia was held in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018.

In 2011 PEG established the Woy Woy Peninsula Community Garden in Moana Street, a project initiated and driven by Jill Meredith. Tania Haydn and Julie Gilbody later took over running the project.

In 2016, PEG set up the PEG Nature Play Group. The playgroup is a Facebook group that organises informal picnics, bushwalks, beach visits and other get-togethers for parents of young children (generally under-5s)

In 2021, GUST (Grow Urban Shade Trees), a local group focused on increasing tree cover on the Peninsula, became a PEG sub-project.

These projects run separately with PEG providing oversight, insurance and a legal entity for banking, accounts, grant applications and other admin.

PEG has also run one-off projects including a discounted bulk purchase of solar panels for 60 households in 2011, and Rolling, a project to encourage cycling on the Peninsula through the creation of a community film, in 2014-15.

In 2018 Central Coast Council took over management of the Woy Woy Environment Centre. PEG now hires the hall for our Food Network and other meetings, but no longer manages the venue.

Chief Guardian: The Life and Times of Allen Strom