Local, Politics

Citizens Voice asks State Government to keep Cultural and Civic Centre out of 2036 plan

In response to the Mayors call last week to have the controversial proposed Cultural and Civic Centre (CCC) included in the Coffs Harbour Regional City Action Plan 2036 local opponents of the CCC, Citizens Voice have made a submission to the NSW Department of Planning asking that the building be kept out of the plan.

Mayor Denise Knight last week crticised the removal of the CCC from the Draft Regional City Plan

Citizens Voice’s submission yesterday to the Ministry of Planning is reproduced below;

“27 July 2020

NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

Re: NSW Government Coffs Harbour Draft Regional City Action Plan 2036

Citizens’ Voice wish to provide formal feedback on a component of the Draft Regional City Action Plan 2036.

Citizens’ Voice represents the 15,000+ people who petitioned the NSW Legislative Assembly regarding the Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) proposed Cultural and Civic Space Project.  This petition, lodged in Parliament by Mr Gurmesh Singh MP on 17 September 2019, requested a pause in the progress of the project pending meaningful community consultations.

Citizens’ Voice notes the proposed Cultural and Civic Space infrastructure is not included in the NSW Government Coffs Harbour Draft Regional City Action Plan 2036.

This proposed building has consistently divided Councillors and CHCC and the community. Despite the petition, meaningful community consultation did not occur. The State Significant Development Application Coffs Harbour Cultural and Civic Space SSD-10300 attracted 826 Submissions: 19 in support, ten comments, and 797 objections.

Citizens’ Voice supports and values art and culture. However, our community have long argued the goal has remained construction of an extensive, expensive infrastructure project, rather than a genuine commitment to the arts. The community have consistently called for, yet been denied, consideration of an affordable, sustainable approach of a facility constructed independently of council facilities. Citizens’ Voice concurs with our State MP Mr Gurmesh Singh that an Art and Culture strategy should be included in the 2036 Plan, but it should not be bound to, and by, one deeply unpopular and highly controversial building.

The longterm financial burden of this infrastructure, 30% of the building dedicated to Council Administration space, and contempt by CHCC for the community who have fought vehemently against this project has caused irreparable social damage. The result is a significant loss of community confidence in CHCC to respectfully represent their wishes, and a consistent failure to address their needs and concerns.

A consequence of this building would be putting onto the market, either for sale or through lease, an immediate glut of additional high-cost office space in the CBD, burdening an already oversupplied vacancy rate and undermining current stock. Already depressed real estate values are evidenced by the Council’s inability to sell their existing Administration Building and Rigby House CBD offices, Regional Museum, or buildings in Rose Avenue. In March 2020, CHCC went to an open market with a national agent and were unable to attract tender bids even close to the valuations on any of these four commercial properties. With COVID-19 forcing significantly changed work practices, a return to traditional office environments is unlikely at least in the medium term.

Citizens’ Voice request that the NSW State Planning Department continues to leave the CHCC proposed Cultural and Civic Space infrastructure out of the Coffs Harbour Regional City Action Plan 2036.

Citizens’ Voice Coffs Coast

[email protected]

cc Mr Gurmesh Singh MP”

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Citizens Voice wants the CCC kept out of the Regional City Plan 2036

At the last meeting of Council voted unanimously to ask the State Government to reinstate the CCC into the Regional City Plan as per Appendix 2 of the agenda for last 23 July’s CHCC meeting which states;

Lack of Reference to Culture and Creativity and Associated Infrastructure Collaborations

The final Coffs Harbour Draft RCAP appears to have significantly changed from the version which Council sighted in late 2019, with the removal of references both to the Cultural and Civic Space project and to the importance of the Coffs Harbour City Centre as the cultural, civic and entertainment heart of the City throughout the document. This is at odds with both numerous NSW Government policy documents and numerous Coffs Harbour City Council policy documents.

As a matter of planning policy, the complete absence of cultural facilities, cultural tourism and cultural infrastructure in the Coffs Harbour Draft RCAP is noticeable and has been observed by the Coffs Harbour community. Council’s submission requests that cultural and creativity elements of the Plan be reinstated throughout to accord with NSW Government and Council policy documents.

Requested Amendment:

2.   That the final Coffs Harbour RCAP have these cultural and creativity elements of the Plan reinstated throughout to accord with the Cultural Infrastructure Plan 2025+ and consequently with the NSW Government priorities.

3.   That Collaboration Opportunity 1 be updated to better acknowledge the Coffs Harbour City Centre as the cultural, civic and entertainment heart of the regional city; and the Cultural and Civic Space project. Council’s  submission (Attachment 2) also includes a document (Our City, Our Culture, Our Centre) which summarises the Coffs Harbour City Centre Masterplan 2031, to highlight again the importance of the Coffs Harbour City Centre as the cultural, civic and entertainment heart of our regional city and to further outline the significance of the Coffs Harbour City Centre in this regard.

4.   That a fourth objective be added to the delivery framework under ‘PLAY’ that specifically addresses cultural facilities, cultural tourism, creativity and cultural infrastructure planning to ensure that Coffs Harbour is distinguished as a thriving and dynamic cultural sector.

5.   That an additional Collaboration Opportunity be included as follows: Regional NSW, Create NSW and Council will continue to work with stakeholders and the community to undertake further planning/investigate the feasibility for a Regional Performing Arts Centre/Theatre that supports the community vision, is financially viable and is able to be implemented.”

See; https://infocouncil.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/Open/2020/07/CO_20200723_AGN_2221_AT_WEB.htm

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Over the next few days CoffsCoast Outlook will analyse the Draft Regional City Plan 2036 and also look at what has happened with previous Council plans relating to the City Centre and environs.

6 Comments

  1. 40cmPedestalFan

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful, inspiring and magnificently benificent if CHCC put all of this focus, headstrong commitment, energy and resources into a better arts and cultural building in a better place.

    If only the blinded could just see that essential and highly problemmatic element: this is not the building and not the place.

    And then not to kneejerk from what they see, in doing that, in a response as “just another viewpoint” or, worse, “an outspoken minority,” but to see it for what it is. The truth.

  2. Whilst any long term plan for Coffs must include the provision of a venue or venues specifically designed to create opportunities for cultural growth in the region, the inclusion of council administrative space in that venue or venues will never be acceptable to a huge number of ratepayers, nor will the building of any structure in the Gordon St precinct be deemed appropriate.

    Denise Knight and her band continue to emulate, in part, the Pinball Wizard, the sad difference being their total lack of ability to play the game.

  3. Omar Khayyam

    As far as the majority of the adult population is concerned, the people of Coffs Harbour have voted against Council. History now records that >15,000 people petitioned against the proposed Gordon Street Civic & Culture Centre and c.800 people submitted Letters of Objection. Thankfully, the State Government and its Planning Department appears to have taken note of this and have in essence rightfully decided not to include the Gordon Street development within its plans. BRAVO !

    Council’s Development Application should now therefore be scrapped and monies spent in areas with higher priorities.

    Given the current pandemic is not even halfway out globally, Covid-19 and future Corona Virus strains are now redefining the future of human interaction. Places of entertainment, workspaces and worship are all presently being transformed and even avoided. Who knows what the future holds, but to build what’s proposed by CHCC as a meeting place for people (suggested 10,000 visitors per week), it would result in complete and utter failure. Without knowing what lies ahead, it would be completely reckless to spend any money on a white elephant project.

    In relation to Art, Culture and Entertainment; with the Coffs Coast being renowned for its thriving creative arts culture, artists as well as patrons will continually host exhibitions and festivals. This vital part of the community is quite capable of making its own independent submissions to the State Government for worthy funding. What MUST happen is for it to be included in the Regional City Action Plan 2036. What MUST NOT happen is for art, culture and entertainment to fall within the domain and under control of Coffs Harbour City Council. We’ve all seen what they’re capable of.

    Finally, hats off to our State Govt. representative Mr Gurmesh Singh MP. His eloquent description of Coffs Harbour Council being “obsessive, short sighted and tone deaf” has struck a real chord with the community and he must be congratulated for making a stand.

  4. 40cmPedestalFan

    Just to add a strong and appreciative note of concurrence with the writers above, and indeed the Citizen’s Voice submission.

    To contribute further, for what it’s worth, there is a political aspect which I feel should be kept top of mind, along with the mechanics of this ever-deteriorating proposition being the current Cultural and Civic Space.

    Anyone with a sense for these sorts of developments – where there is such opposition, and so many indicators of a failing project – and is in a determining position on it has now, if it didn’t previously, massive, heavy cause for a rethink. That is to say, when a dud is being forced into existence, it’s a dud at each step along the way and ends up disastrous and will continue to cause this degree of upset and division onwards for another forty or fifty years until it’s time to update the amenity. It really is time, now, to make the hard decisions, and get it right.

    What’s to lose? The cost of ceasing this project could be argued as equal to the cost of losses incurred in continuing. That means, if that’s reasonably correct, that we are, this minute, at square one.

    That’s a perfect time to pause, rethink, and ask “How better could we provide this requirement?”

    To the political point. This is local government, not a faceless amorphous body with which we are, in the community, dealing and engaging. These are people we can bump into and speak with daily. Councillors, I hope, would do very well to reflect upon the goodwill and consideration, and appreciation, given them and ready for them, personalised upon the very streets they walk. It’s a far, far more personal relationship, Local Govt, than the word ‘Government’ these days implies. All this leads to the simple truth that a Councillor, in stopping the project for a rethink, in acknowledging the division, costs and the fact that this project is no the best that can be provided, would be forgiven. Communities are good people, there’ll be a bit of an outcry upon announcing that the project has ceased for a rethink, but the goodwill will flow readily soon enough and the realisation that this is the right and sensible thing to do, now, will be th abiding element on the street.

    A Councillor doing this will come out in front. He or she will be respected. The healing will begin, and they’ll be granted positive consideration for that as well.

    This project began in fairly innocent times, when the Mayor wanted a skate park – we didn’t have that! No wonder a project that on the surface looked fantastic and huge and complex would grip the heart and come hell or high water it must be done! No wonder. It’s very, very understandable.

    But it’s not working out. People aren’t happy.

    So what to do? Stop it, make the statement that clearly details the work that has been done, to show that so much is already in place for a better building, in a better place, put together on a foundation that can meet the new times we are bound to for years. It’s not a “throw it all away” scenario by any means, far, far from it.

    Make that statement, show how well you’ve performed, the work that’s done that need not be done for that better project, the costs that will be saved by a failed project as originally conceived, and you’ll come out in front politically.

    Just bite the bullet, prepare the statement well, do it, and let’s all heal and begin to get inspired about what really can be done. Yes, we’ve lost some time in doing so. But the little time it takes to start over and get to this position with a better project upon a better, more bankable, foundation is NOTHING compared to forty or fifty years lost until the occasion of being able to be in the position we are in right now.

    Do it, we all come out in front, including you, Councillor. Trust in the goodwill and common sense of the people, please.

  5. I agree with the comments above.
    STOP NOW.
    A reminder to those not aware, read the history that goes back more than 30 years.
    Start rethinking the City Hill location. One Culture is already there -the Bunker Cartoon Gallery- undergoing refurbishment now. There are 25 acres in that parcel of land just waiting for a Culture and Entertainment hub.

    The City Centre locale is simply wrong.
    Keep our current Council offices and update them if you have to.
    Extend and update the Library and museum in one of the buildings you are trying to sell.
    Let commonsense prevail Councillors.

  6. Jess Sorie

    Well said Citizens’ Voice !
    This building has been a bitterly divisive distraction in this community for far to long and it needs to stop.
    At a time when strong leadership is imperative to mitigate the social and economic fallout from Covid-19, the focus needs to shift from the unbridled obsession Council have with this project to far more urgent and significant issues.
    Community angst against this project, and the arrogance and contempt they have felt levelled at them has cast significant doubt over this Council’s ability to effectively represent our LGA.
    The result is an irrepairable relationship breakdown betwen Council and an outraged community who, when finally given the opportunity in 2021 will certainly vote to significantly change those who sit in the Chamber. The question is, will we, as a community be in debt by $140 million by then?

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