Local, Opinion/Comment

Voices in favour of the proposed Cultural and Civic Centre have their say – Part 1

In the interests of presenting alternative viewpoints we today publish one of two opinions on the CCC received yesterday via our Facebook site’s Inbox. The second opinion piece will be published tomorrow.

“CCC will be a tourist attraction”

I have been quite alarmed to hear of dissenting voices against the construction of the proposed Cultural Centre in Coffs Harbour.

By Sandra Duncan

The vocal minority antagonists have enlisted very inappropriately State Parliamentarians, newly elected Gurmesh Singh, Shelley Hancock as well as Sydney based radio talkback identity Ray Hadley in a last- minute effort to halt construction.

The proposed CCC “should provide enhanced cultural life for all.”

Yes, things have radically changed with the appearance of Covid-19 along with social isolation, business and border lockdowns, the halt of air traffic as well as a grave disruption to our economy.

We are fortunate to live in a country that values lives, over money and have the budget that can support these measures.

Whilst the economy is undoubtedly going to take a shock, two new forces have emerged.

• State and federal govts are urging and offering extra funding for local municipal works to boost employments opportunities. This is the time-honoured and proven practice to kickstart economies affected by disaster, be it natural or manmade.

• With restricted entry through international borders in the foreseeable future, Australians will be holidaying at home. Coffs Harbour is an easily accessible and quite affordable holiday spot for both Sydney and Brisbane residents and hinterlands.

An upswing in tourist numbers from a wider demographic and travelling history will be likely. Whilst the glorious landscape, beach activities and the iconic Big Banana are great attractions, Australian families are also appreciative consumers of the Arts which include museums, art galleries and libraries.

These have a low profile here currently giving Coffs Harbour a bit of a cultural backwater rating. Furthermore, the Civic Centre will be a centrally located facility with administration hub will be in constant daily use by the entire community and should provide enhanced cultural life for all.

“Currently a bit of a cultural backwater?”

The inclusion of a designated Performing Arts space will not service the daily needs of the people and can incur huge running costs and losses. This demand could be regarded more as an obstructionist “red herring”.

Currently we have performing arts access spaces of the Jetty Theatre, C-Ex Club and International Stadium, Conservatorium of Music as well as the Botanical Gardens. But we have only one library, museum and a small art gallery which are way below the standards of a that are the norm of a town of our size. Objection after objection has been successfully countered by council for the Cultural and Civic Centre.

Costings have been proved viable, the community consultation processes adhered to, development applications submitted, architects employed, plans drawn, and this wonderful vision is nearing initiation.

I question the motives of the small but vocal locally powerful old guard objectors.

• Is it merely the ageless objection to change of status quo and power structures?

• Is it a hidden agenda of financial self-interest?

• Is it ignorance of how the Australian cultural landscape has changing expectations?

• Is it simply a xenophobic resistance to newcomers, including a democratically elected council and their wonderful and progressive changes to the city landscape? How much more harassment can this council endure?

• Why is Shelley Hancock very inappropriately, and perhaps even illegally in my opinion, threatening to change laws to halt construction? To whose interest is she responding?

• Is Gurmesh Singh merely an inexperienced puppet of Andrew Fraser or lacking an understanding of the importance of Arts for the whole community?

• Why is Ray Hadley, right wing Sydney based radio shock jock, suddenly so informed and concerned?

I hope this will be a noticed voice as I am not alone in my community’s support for this project to create a vibrant heart in Coffs Harbour which will be of great ongoing benefit for all Australians.

I implore you to oversee the continuation of this visionary project which will improve life in Coffs Harbour and perhaps even address some of the youth unemployment issues in the area.

It has been estimated that there will be 1000 new job opportunities and much work experience surrounding this development.

Following Covid-19, it would be highly advisable to spend on construction and infrastructure rather than spend the same money on Social Benefit Payments.

Of course, the financial burden will be all our responsibility in years to come but easier to bear that this money was spent on progress to provide Australians with employment opportunities.

8 Comments

  1. Mr Creosote

    Breathtakingly Banal. Has shown a good grasp of the English language but poor understanding of life’s realities, community needs, good governance and responsible financial management. Seems also not to know the difference between a noisy minority and a noisy majority.

  2. Bonnie Capell

    Idealistic, naive and ill-informed –
    With 15,000 people having signed petitions against this project, I hardly think we could be called “ a vocal minority of antagonists “.
    And please tell us wHat is inappropriate about engaging with our State Parliamentarians, -isn’t that what they’re for? Representing constituents! And what’s the problem with Ray Hadley choosing to support the community and add to the voices? He has a track record for sticking up for the under-dogs and calling out dodgy deals. And I’m not sure where you’ve been for the last 9 months, but this is NOT a last- minute effort to halt construction. This has been a 9 month campaign, where our voices have been ignored and where questionable processes have occurred.
    And we are using the normal tools of democracy to seek a different outcome.

  3. donna kerr

    What I as a ratepayer see.. is that it is full steam ahead with the project.. with no consideration to how hard the constituents of Coffs Harbour are having it at the moment I am a home owner and lease council office space for my work and i have had neither rate relief nor rent relief.
    This is not fair. How can I, as just a mere simpleton in the eyes of Council, be expected to support spending hard earned ratepayer money on this when soooo many families are struggling?
    You can justify it any way you want. But what we are seeing in my opinion is being sold out by those we voted in

  4. William Tweed

    Valid points and well written.

    15000 signatures stands for a minority.

    Most people who agree remain the silent majority and don’t adgitate.

    There are upwards of 50000 voters in Coffs Harbour LGA I would expect. So 15k is barely the majority.
    I heard of multiple complaints from folk saying they were harassed into signing a petition.

    • You would expect 50 000+ voters in our LGA. Where does your calculation come from? Many who oppose the project may not have signed the petition, based upon your assertion that many people constitute a silent majority and don’t agitate. Could it be that the 15000 signatures represent the tip of the iceberg?

    • Oh come on.
      Don’t be ridiculous.

  5. At last, someone who is prepared to speak in favour of the alleged Cultural and Civic Centre, or, as some will suggest, new council offices with attached cultural spaces.
    When a proponent is able to express a view logically and in an intelligible fashion, it makes it so much easier to formulate a counter argument. Here’s my attempt.

    Point 1: “CCC will be a tourist attraction”
    “An upswing in tourist numbers from a wider demographic and travelling history will be likely. Whilst the glorious landscape, beach activities and the iconic Big Banana are great attractions, Australian families are also appreciative consumers of the Arts which include museums, art galleries and libraries.”
    Response 1: What data have been gathered to support this view? Who has gathered this data? Has it been gathered by an independent agency? Where can people access this data? Has this conclusion been drawn as a result of formal research, or is it the result of optimistic guesswork, based upon personal values?
    Opinion 1: Although undoubtedly a prime tourist destination, Coffs Harbour sees most of its visitors arriving during school holidays, with a total duration of about 10 to 12 weeks per year. Assuming that most visitors will be family groups, it is unlikely that they will spend time in an art gallery or library, or have any interest at all in looking at a building for its architectural merit or as a home to bureaucrats.
    Therefore, the building’s attraction to tourists would seem to be limited to a period of, approximately, 20% of the year and to a relatively small number of tourists visiting Coffs. For about 80% of the year the building will have a negligible value as a tourist attraction. I suggest that it is fallacious to attempt to justify construction on the grounds that the tourist dollars it attracts will benefit Coffs significantly.
    Point 2: “The vocal minority antagonists have enlisted very inappropriately State Parliamentarians, newly elected Gurmesh Singh, Shelley Hancock as well as Sydney based radio talkback identity Ray Hadley in a last- minute effort to halt construction.”
    “I question the motives of the small but vocal locally powerful old guard objectors.”
    Response 2: What data have been gathered to support the view that antagonists are in the minority? Who has gathered this data? Has it been gathered by an independent agency? Where can people access this data? What evidence supports the view that the interventions of Gurmesh Singh and Shelley Hancock are inappropriate? Given that opposition to the project has been ongoing for many months, how appropriate is it to describe the attempt to halt construction as “last-minute”? Have these conclusions been drawn as a result of formal research, or are they unsupported and based upon personal opinion?
    Opinion 2: A survey conducted by “The Advocate” indicated that between 70% and 80% of Coffs ratepayers are opposed to the project, as it is proposed. A cursory examination of CCO and social media sites, supports the view that the figure may be considerably higher.
    A petition containing in excess of 15 000 signatures, and the lodging of more than 800 submissions, supports the view that a majority of ratepayers oppose the project. A statistician might extrapolate from the data contained in these numbers, a more accurate percentage of ratepayers who oppose the project.
    Since the Minister for Local Government has a primary responsibility for ensuring the appropriate behaviours of councils, it might be suggested that she is doing her duty in taking action when such a large percentage of ratepayers are expressing dissatisfaction with their council.
    As our state MP, Gurmesh Singh has a duty to represent the people of his electorate, and their opinions. By writing to the mayor, Gurmesh has properly discharged that duty. If he had been inundated with messages of support for the project, it would have been his responsibility to bring this to the attention of council in order that opposition to the proposal might be considered in a balanced fashion. Gurmesh has not been overwhelmed with expressions of support for the project.
    The attempt to halt construction could never be called “last minute”.
    Point 3: State and federal govts are urging and offering extra funding for local municipal works to boost employments opportunities. This is the time-honoured and proven practice to kickstart economies affected by disaster, be it natural or manmade.
    Response 3: Experts in this field support the view that an increased number of smaller scale municipal works will employ local workers and offer funding for same. What evidence is there to support the view that the mayor’s project will provide significantly increased job opportunities for locals? Is this view based purely on optimistic guesswork?
    Opinion 3: There is no shortage of potential municipal works which would attract government funding and provide jobs for locals into the foreseeable future. These smaller scale works would require few construction specialists of the type which might be employed on the mayor’s project.
    The community at large would probably be pleased to see increased council activity in the provision of new infrastructure, and in the maintenance of existing infrastructure.
    The community at large does not want the mayor’s project, in its proposed form.
    Point 4: “These (museums, art galleries and libraries) have a low profile here currently giving Coffs Harbour a bit of a cultural backwater rating. Furthermore, the Civic Centre will be a centrally located facility with administration hub will be in constant daily use by the entire community and should provide enhanced cultural life for all.”
    Response 4: What data have been gathered to support this view? Who has gathered this data? Has it been gathered by an independent agency? Where can people access this data?
    The current council offices (the administrative hub) are already centrally located. Are they “in constant daily use by the entire community”? How will an administrative centre with attached cultural spaces “provide enhanced cultural life for all.”?
    Opinion 4: How do we define a “cultural backwater”? Are people who choose not to utilise specific cultural spaces, uncultured? Is there a strong community resistance to the creation of a new art gallery, library and museum, or is the rejection of the mayor’s plan a response to her inclusion of new office space for herself and council’s bureaucrats?
    I am one of many who strongly support the provision of new cultural spaces, along with a performance space, in a more suitable location.
    Point 5: “The inclusion of a designated Performing Arts space will not service the daily needs of the people and can incur huge running costs and losses. This demand could be regarded more as an obstructionist “red herring”.
    Currently we have performing arts access spaces of the Jetty Theatre, C-Ex Club and International Stadium, Conservatorium of Music as well as the Botanical Gardens.”
    Response 5: Neither the inclusion of a designated Performing Arts space nor the inclusion of a designated library, art gallery and library, will service the daily needs of the people. Each can incur huge running costs and losses, but will, over time, satisfy the demonstrated need for each of these venues. A performing arts space should surely be considered as part of a community’s cultural fabric in the same way as a library, art gallery or museum.
    A suitable stadium could see performances from artists as diverse as The Sydney Dance Company and Elton John. None of the current performance spaces listed, is suitable for purpose.
    A “red herring” is designed to divert attention from the truth. The need for an appropriate performance space in Coffs Harbour is blatantly obvious. The call for its construction is a reflection of a plain truth.
    Opinion 5: This is bullshit.
    Point 6: “Objection after objection has been successfully countered by council for the Cultural and Civic Centre.”
    Response 6: More bullshit.
    Opinion 6: See above.
    Responses to Points 7 and beyond:
    • Costings have not been proved viable.
    • The community consultation process has not been appropriately conducted.
    • Development applications have not been approved.
    • Objections relate to the inappropriate, immoral, undemocratic behaviour of Knight and her friends.
    • How can a whole community conceal financial self-interest?
    • Coffs Harbour people are not semi-literate morons, nor are we ignorant of our culture and its landscape.
    • Coffs Harbour people are not xenophobic. We are an integrated multiracial community which welcomes newcomers from all parts of the planet.
    • The democratically elected council that was, no longer exists, following the loss of one councillor.
    • Hopefully this council will not need to endure much more harassment.
    • Shelley Hancock is responding to the stated needs of the majority of Coffs community members, at their request. Why is her action possible illegal?
    • Gurmesh Singh is responding to the stated needs of the majority of Coffs community members, at their request. He has expressed no opposition to the creation of cultural spaces.
    • Ray Hadley is informed and concerned because he makes money from being so.
    • The creation of a multi-faceted cultural venue in Coffs, in an appropriate place and minus the new facilities for Knight & Co., is supported whole heartedly by tens of thousands of local people.
    • Youth unemployment, in the long term, needs to be addressed for the long term. A single project will have very limited, short-term effect.
    • How many of the estimated 1 000 jobs will go to locals? Where is the data to support the estimate? Has a local real estate agent been engaged to sell the public buildings which council has for sale? Has the tender for the demolition of public buildings, to make way for Knight’s Palace, been awarded to a local company?
    • Does the writer have a prejudiced view of people who are forced to live on “Social Benefit Payments”? Is there a cultural divide between such people and those for whom true culture means a sense of refinement in attitude and behaviour?

    Opinions 7 and beyond:
    These points represent an elitist attempt to defend the indefensible by attacking the opposition, a tactic employed consistently by Knight and her comrades.
    The writer chooses to ignore facts and rely upon emotive, suggestive intimation. No-one reading the piece could possibly be dissuaded from their view that Knight’s project is an incredible expensive exercise in personal aggrandisement.

  6. Who is Sandra Duncan?? What is her connection to this project and is she a local person??

    Editors note: Sandra is a Coffs Harbour based artist and ratepayer Moira.

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