Big Lobster


Story Details

The big lobster at Kingston on South Australia's Limestone Coast has been there for almost 30 years.

"It's the gateway to the Limestone Coast and it's a big thing for Kingston and all the surrounding businesses," said one local resident.

Since artist and craftsman Paul Kelly came up with this colossal crustacean in 1979, it has just stood there, quietly minding its own business. Now "Larry the lobster", as he's affectionately known, is embroiled in a battle between his owners on one side and Kingston Council and local businesses on the other.

Stirring the pot is Casey Sharpe and Jenna Lawrie. They snapped up the big lobster because they saw a gigantic opportunity.

'It represents a great big piece of bait I suppose that lures cars in," Casey says.

They spent more than three quarters of a million dollars on the purchase and much-needed renovation, but now eight months later, they feel let down by the locals.

According to the two young entrepreneurs, after requesting changes to their liquor licence so they can host functions at the big lobster, Kingston Council told them they must seal their car park out of their own pocket.

"How can they make us pay 80 grand and they've never hassled any of the previous owners prior to us coming on board," said Casey.

They say it's a waste of time and money to seal the car park, because of the extensive plans they have for the site over the next few years, plus the fact that the council approval for the car park sealing was given in 1979 as part of the original application�three owners ago.

A frustrated Casey said: "Nearly three decades later, they're hitting us to re-seal the car park. I don't know how that works."

Also, local police want the business to provide a courtesy bus for all functions and the nearby hotels have also had a crack, demanding they cap those functions at only 25 a year.

Casey and Jenna reckon the Big Lobster is losing around $20,000 dollars a quarter and the car park demand could bring the business to its knees.

Kingston Council chairman Evan Flint disputes the cost quoted by the owners to seal the car park, saying it's more like $35,000 than $80,000 and says the Big Lobster is the only local business to moan about upgrading its car parking�albeit 30 years late.

He claims they didn't have the resources in those days, where they were allegedly surviving without a full-time building inspector, and so the young entrepreneurs have copped them at full strength.

So in desperation Casey and Jenna are about to whip up big trouble in little Kingston. The couple has threatened to put the Lobster on a semi and take it to a town where it's appreciated.

Casey is exploring ways to take the Big Lobster to the historic seaside town of Robe, where there is no doubt it will fit in�being the lobster capital of the South East.

Many local businesses said they would definitely be upset if the Lobster was to go 45 km south. Many haven't even heard the rumour about the Lobster leaving.

The CEO of Robe Council, Bill Hender, has confirmed talks have been held over the Big Lobster's re-location.

"You know, we'd always be looking at any opportunities for tourism. Of course, the trick is to find an appropriate place for such an icon," he told us.

Then Kingston Councillor Evan Flint dropped another bombshell: "I dare say that if they wanted to move it, they would have to build a new one. I'd doubt if it was moveable."

Apparently the Big Lobster isn't all it's cracked up to be� Just cracked up?

Evan went on to say: "How would you pick it up? Cut all the legs off, strap them on, pick up the body? How would ya like?"

"Hey, look, I mean the engineers' job is that she's, she's dodgy. We can get you and show you the report," he said.

And Evan was as good as his word. That council report shows that an engineers' inspection of the big lobster was carried out in 2005 and found: "The steel sections and their connections were found to be in a dilapidated state. The structural trusses creating the leg sections were found to be in a highly corroded state."

Casey and Jenna were unaware of the report saying: "I never knew anything about this report. I've never known anything like this to exist until you've just placed it in my hands. Very surprising, I didn't know the Council had done this in 2005. Yeah, it's news to me."

Some support work has been carried out and Casey is convinced the Lobster is safe and would withstand the journey to Robe.

I guess the last word should come from a Kingston local about big Larry going south:

"No. It stays here. It's part of Kingston."