A brief history of PEG

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, 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 that we were “preaching to the converted” – the same small group of commited environmentalists. PEG 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 has now grown to be the largest single component of PEG, with around 50 members ordering organic/chemical-free produce plus dried foods 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, at Woy Woy South Public School. Woytopia was held in 2010, 2011, 2012 and then biannually in 2014, 2016. A planned 2018 festival was cancelled due to severe rain.

In 2011 PEG established a third major project, the Woy Woy Peninsula Community Garden in Moana Street, a project initiated and driven by Jill Meredith. Tania Haydn later joined Jill in helping run this project.

PEG has also run some one-off projects. These have included organising 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 and 2015.

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)

A new project for 2018 is Plastic Free Peninsula to get rid of plastic bags on the Peninsula.

These various projects run separately but under the umbrella of PEG, with PEG providing oversight, insurance cover, and a legal entity for banking, making grant applications and other administrative functions.

In 2018 Central Coast Council took over management of the Woy Woy Environment Centre hall. PEG now hires the hall for food network divvies and meetings, but no longer manages the venue.

Chief Guardian: The Life and Times of Allen Strom