Picturesque Brisbane ... Brisbane Water, that is, in New South Wales.

Picturesque Brisbane ... Brisbane Water, that is, in New South Wales. Photo: Simon Alekna

What's in a name? A lot, says Gosford mayor Lawrie McKinna, who has kicked off a campaign to change the name of a prominent harbour area on the New South Wales central coast called Brisbane Water to save tourists confusing it with the Queensland capital.

The move might not be a bad idea given the significance of placenames in the increasingly important business of city branding, according to destination-marketing expert Pierre Benckendorff.

Dr Benckendorff, a senior lecturer in the University of Queensland's school of tourism, said cities and celebrities were similar in the sense that a good name was an important first step along the road to fame and fortune.

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“The difference is you can't trademark a city name in the same way you can for other products,” he said.

“Yet increasingly, when big cities are trying to build a brand around their name and the brand has a personality attached to it, they're going to be unhappy if someone tries to muscle in on their turf.”


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Unfortunately for Gosford, Queensland's Brisbane has the bigger, better brand, Dr Benckendorff said, meaning a name change was probably a good idea if the coastal town was serious about boosting local tourism and industry.

And that's exactly what Cr McKinna hopes to achieve. The land surrounding Brisbane Water is earmarked for a major redevelopment, The Landing, which forms part of a larger Gosford revitalisation project.

“This landmark development will showcase Gosford to national and international visitors, developers and potential investors,” Cr McKinna said.

“The current name of the body of water directly adjacent to The Landing and surrounding areas does not uniquely identify our region and confuses many visitors due to its perceived association with the City of Brisbane in Queensland.”

However, a rebrand isn't a simple endeavour – in addition to myriad changes to signage, business names and administrative paraphernalia, two schools and a national park are named after Brisbane Water.

As such, Cr McKinna said the council's discussions with the Geographical Names Board – a state-based agency that controls placenames in New South Wales – would form part of a broader consultation with the community.

“At this stage, council is just investigating the feasibility of a name change and will be seeking input when we know what our options are,” he said.

Brisbane Water shares a name with the City of Brisbane as both places pay tribute to Scotsman Sir Thomas Brisbane, who was governor of NSW from 1821 to 1825.