“What is that thing?… And what’s that smell?”
Anyone who’s spent enough time in North Bondi for the wind to change direction will have heard a visitor ask such questions. First they notice the majestic structure standing in the middle of Bondi golf course, and then they scrunch up their face as they catch a whiff of Chanel No. 2. You tell them frankly, and not without a little bit of pride, “That. Is the Poo Pipe.”
In past centuries nations spent millions and decades erecting enormous obelisks like the Washington Monument and Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. In even grander gestures of chest-beating, expanding empires travelled thousands of miles to steal thousand-year-old obelisks from Egypt and erected the giant phallic symbols of might and potency in prominent locations in their capital cities.
The much sought after Egyptian obelisks now found in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, and Cleopatra’s needles in London and New York, are testament to the ability of empires to conquer all who opposed them in far-flung lands. And come home with their largest rocks.
Here on our own doorstep we find an obelisk that is surely on par with these more famed monuments for its splendour and undeniable phallic qualities. Especially when viewed against the skyline as you’re driving up Blair St towards the golf course. And it also has the distinction of annoying a hell of a lot more golfers than the Washington Monument ever could, as they blast expletives at the silent tower for wrecking their PGA tour aspirations on the par four 5th.
So what is the Poo Pipe and who put it there? It’s a ventilation tower attached to the Bondi sewage treatment plant that sits on top of the hill at the end of the golf course. Its purpose is to introduce a flow of fresh air through the sewers and to allow the release of noxious and corrosive gases. So yes: it’s basically a very elaborate fart tower.
But as important as that role sounds, it serves a far greater purpose today. Today the negative qualities of the Poo Pipe act as a way to bring balance to the otherwise general appeal of Bondi. From the hordes of beauties eternally sunning themselves on the sand, to the rugged white and grey sandstone cliffs that rise out of the golf course and watch over the ocean (or Dr Pacific as the commentator on Bondi Rescue seems to think the locals call it), it all seems a bit too sugary. So thanks to the Poo Pipe, North Bondi is just a little more down to earth and liveable. Nothing in this world is perfect, nor can it be. And the Poo Pipe is our little reminder of that.