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Is Maryborough’s Cistern Chapel the best public toilet in Australia? City goes for gold with throne

The city of Maryborough, three-and-a-half-hours’ drive north of Brisbane, has unveiled its latest tourism attraction — the flashiest loos in the land.

Key points:

Period paintings, chandeliers, fresh flowers and music all feature in the city’s latest tourism attractionProject mastermind Nancy Bates said the prospect of a simple paint-job was simply not enough for herThe new loos will be open for business next week

What started out as open, night cart-serviced toilets 120 years ago have been transformed into an ornately decorated Victoriana-themed precinct.

Cistern Chapel Committee president Nancy Bates said she had the grand vision after a visit to the dingy toilets a couple of years ago.

“Maryborough is developing into a great tourist precinct and I thought, ‘This is the heart of it and it’s just not good enough’,” she said.

“So I snapped up a couple of photos and sent them to Daniel Sanderson, the councillor here who looks after the city area.

Loo’s boss? Nancy Bates was inspired to make some serious improvements after being less than impressed with the previous condition of the city’s facilities.(ABC Wide Bay:Jake Kearnan)

“A couple of weeks later he sent me back a text and said, ‘Good news — we are going to repaint them’.

“I said, ‘No, Daniel. I want the best toilets in Australia, maybe the world’.

“The fanciest. I want chandeliers, I want fresh flowers and music.”

A golden toilet in a public restroom. Perukes and face powder are not required when visiting the Cistern Chapel, though some people may feel inadequately attired upon entry.(ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

Lifting the lid

More than 12 months later the transformation is complete and will be open to the public from Monday.

“The thing about doing this particular project is that the character of the building was so terrific, it just lent itself,” Ms Bates said.

“You couldn’t do this with a new building at all, but there is so much character here within our city hall that we were able to create something a long the lines of the Victoriana theme.

“There are quite a few toilets marketed as tourist attractions — we think we have the fanciest.

“If anybody travels north of Brisbane, we will probably end up on the must-do list.

“We’ll have regular checks on the whole thing to make sure it stays as we would like it.”

A man paints a toilet door. Garry Madden puts the finishing touches on the toilet door.(ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

Flushing with pride

Garry Madden was one of the artists who played an integral role in putting the finishing touches on the project.

He said one of the most challenging parts of the project was working on the roof.

Painted windows and intricate fresco work in an absurdly ornate public toilet. The community raised the money to upgrade the toilets on the side of the City Hall into artistic masterpieces.(ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)

“I couldn’t get a scissor lift in here because the doors were too narrow, so I was up a ladder painting a lot of butterflies,” he said.

“That was a bit precarious, but I really needed to do it to fulfil what was my vision as a retreat for mothers to come into.

“I hope people leave a little happier or a little bit more ‘relieved’ is the statement I would like to make.”

Several artists in the Maryborough community contributed to the project.

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Krzysztof Stanowicz

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