A candidate for Council’s thoughts on how to rejuvenate Coffs Harbour

As promised, my thoughts to the questions I myself posed here a week or so ago. While I know a lot of these questions are not direct council responsibility they were questions that came up in a Small Business Group meeting and felt they were worth discussion.

By Nikki Williams

Do I have all the answers absolutely not, however I don’t believe we find answers to our towns issues by hiring a city consultant.

We need to get off our buts and speak the people on the groundWhat are your plans for the CBD? Are you happy with where it is right now? If not what are your plans to improve it?

I want to see our city centre become a hive of activity to do I believe we need living and accommodation in the CBD and we need to create activities that draw people to town- The Cex project is a great start and I hope with its success it will encourage those building owners leaving their buildings to sit empty and fall apart, to sell to developers who will hopefully build more like the Cex.

Since writing these questions I have reached out to and had a meeting with the Cex executive and have a desire as a councillor to maintain a hands on involvement with the CBD stakeholders.

  • We have a great space in the city square to bring activities, Markets, night time markets weekend markets of all different kinds a monthly night traders market where all stores can put tables and racks out to promote sales stock, live music busking festivals ect. But we can’t just keep spending money changing pavers every 10 years thinking that will fix the problem. As a store owner myself the last ‘upgrade’ to the city square almost choked my and many others business and for what?
  • New white pavers that are now filthy and some fairy lights… the expensive fixer uppers are a waste of money we need vision that extends over 20 years. Do it once and do it well.-
  • Empty shops, while we can’t force shop owners to fill their shops what we can do is encourage development by making our town more attractive to developers that will hopefully come in and knock some of these run down buildings down and rebuild.
The City Centre – Under-utilised? Under thought through? Too many empty shops?
  • Trading hours! This is a big one. Trading hours need to be consistent. Too many stores and restaurants are closed on weekends. Many Kitchens are closing by 2pm. If we want people to come we have to show up and put in the work. Especially Council owned leases and that goes for all areas of Coffs. Council leases should state mandatory trading hours that benefit the needs of our town
  • The city centre should be run just like a shopping centre without a roof. A centre manager for this area that can couple as a marketing manager would be beneficial
  • We need to stop thinking the Park Beach Plaza (PBP) is the problem. It isn’t. For Coffs to thrive all areas need to thrive. The PBP brings big nationals which are important many of which would not be here if it wasn’t for PBP.
  • Instead Capitalise on what the CBD has to offer which is outdoor boutique shopping outdoor dining and an Urban feel yet so close to great parkland in Brelsford Park. Laneways with great graffiti art that are the perfect place for small hole in the wall bars, flower markets, coffee shops etc rents are lower and more manageable making these key spots for new ideas. Who does this great? Melbourne! Let’s model them.
  • Can we put bollards up at night to stop traffic in riding lane making it safe for those entering bars? What are the impediments to this and how can we work through themHow will you support young entrepreneurs wanting to open businesses in Coffs? Will you personally frequent them? If so will you promote them? If so HOW? It’s no secret opening up in a new business is a tough and often a risk especially for the younger generation that don’t have the money and experience age can often bring. Those with the courage to do it should be congratulated and supported. While it’s not a Council’s direct responsibility to assist with small businesses it is our responsibility to ensure our city thrives and small business is the backbone to that.
  • Can we create a roll of a start up small business consultant, to offer advice and support? Or reach out to those more experienced in our business community to offer their time?
  • Councillors should be frequenting all businesses. Getting to know every member of this community. Ask them how trading is, ask them what they think we can do better, to help them do better.
  • Let’s have the more nonofficial council meetings in our community giving businesses our business. –
  • Social media is big we need to share new spaces post about who they are and what they have to offer not just on council pages but our own personal pagesWill you consult with the younger generations in regards to entertainment? Will you actively seek answers to why musicians that we want and music festivals are bypassing Coffs leaving us to travel and spend our money is Port Macquarie Armidale Lennox head etc? If yes where will you look to find those answers? A Big Yes! But we need to be asking the right people.
  • Reach out to all local event and music promoters. Ask them what has been successful in other towns not by getting them to fill out a 10 page survey actually sit down with them and ask their opinion. The people doing the jobs know more than anyone else. –
  • Port Macquarie has an annual festival of the sun it sold out last year in 4 hrs, 3 day music, comedy and camping festival spread out along the water. It’s even BYO… can you imagine being allowed to do that in Coffs? How much economy does I generate? I’m working right now on finding that figure out. –
  • The annual Broadbeach Blues festival is on this weekend. A festival spread across so many venues supporting many artists and businesses. I have reached out to the marketing manager of this and am speaking to her early this week to find out what economy it brings to town –
  • Work with our wineries to capitalise on these unique spaces such as Peterson’s in Armidale have, we have award winning wineries that could be a huge tourist attraction we should be making them work. CCO Editor – Here! Here! As opposed to trying to destroy them as seems to be the case with Two Tails for example IMO?
  • Work with licensing are our laws stricter than elsewhere? And if so why?
  • Work with promoters to offer transport ect and assist them to ensure these festivals are financially viable. Would you encourage and initiate mentoring programs, using our more experienced successful business owners to engage those with ideas and dreams yet lacking the experience and business knowledge to get those dreams out of their heads and off the ground?
  • Likewise engage the younger generations to work with our older generations and help them understand us and navigate this ever changing online world? Would this be a way to encourage a more inclusive community and more understanding and respect for each generation and demographics needs? To be honest this question came from a video someone shared with me about young and old mentoring each other. It was really interesting and stuck a cord with me and so was really interested to hear others thoughts.
  • Since writing these questions it has been put on the back burner as I’ve had many other things demanding immediate priority however I believe mutual respect and understanding of needs across all generations is important and a very interesting and worthwhile concept to explore.
  • Do you feel Coffs has a huge decline in night time economy? If yes, is changing this important to you? – We need a performance space. It should have been done years ago
  • We have a Uni here yet we have such limited options for these young adults to go at night. Why do nightclubs not work here? Why is our town completely dead after midnight when 20 years ago the streets were packed? I am speaking with one nightclub owner this week just to ask his thoughts and plan to contact other licensed premises to also ask their opinion on the nightlife scene.
  • Consult with police and licensing. What are the impediments? Do you believe Coffs Harbour has enough to offer our teens and young adults to keep them inspired and fulfilled. If not what do you propose for this demographic? Nurture and appreciate our role models
  • Young successful business owners, young national and world level athletes, talented artists, dancers, musicians, brilliant minds. The Coffs Coast has an abundance. We need to harness these people get them in schools sharing their stories. Give them the recognition they deserve by promoting their achievements – Give them the spaces they deserve to compete with the kids in big cities- And in turn work with them and ask them to give back by encouraging and mentoring those that look up to themAre you aware of the unique issues the younger generation faces in today’s world?
  • What do you believe are the biggest challenges we face? My key issue here is housing.
  • First home buyers in a market more inflated than ever before. This is a huge issue and needs immediate action. We need to get infrastructure into land zoned residential and we need to do it today! Supply and demand. The only way to bring prices down is to have more supply. We have hectares of land able to be developed. To make this land viable and cost effective to developers we need to get sewer and water in there. We need to bring down the cost of development.
“Coffs Harbour needs to offer it’s young more, not only via jobs but through entertainment too.”
  • Gone are the days it is safe to send our young kids outside until the lights go out. We need more play areas for young families. The jetty? We don’t even have a decent park, kids wet play area etc or even any shade. Brelsford Park I love the skate park and also the kids park. I’d love to see a kids bike park in that space too. Our streets are busier than ever it’s getting harder to teach kids to ride bikes, a common skill that is so important especially moving into a more environmentally conscious world. There is an incredible kids bike park in Sydney that has working traffic lights road signs etc something like this would be so great for coffs and it’s young families.
  • The cost of living is soaring and more families than ever before have both parents working full time, we are the generation that doesn’t have time for processes long winded surveys and committees. As councillors I believe we should be the work horse for these people. Hear their thoughts wants and needs and do the offical leg work for them.

Note: This post was specifically related to questions from a small biz networking group so had a heavy city centre focus however it is definitely not my only focus


Nikki is running for Council on a ticket with Rodger Pryce, Tegan Swan and John Lardner.

CCO encourages other CHCC candidates to respond or send in their own thoughts. This piece was originally published at the Coffs Coast Independent News Facebook site on Friday 21 May. Published here with permission.

As always we encourage our readers to respond vi comments that will be published once moderated.

10 thoughts on “A candidate for Council’s thoughts on how to rejuvenate Coffs Harbour

  1. Congratulations, Nikki, on finding your voice and your exciting approach.

    What I have to say here is something that I don’t think will make it to the table, though I hope it at least provides another perspective within which you may choose to invite further thoughts.

    A quick background, if you will, to the CBD. It was once a street with a small footpath that run alongside the shops. These footpaths were widened, streets closed, a piazza created, with a rotunda. Then this was annihilated and the “multi-purpose” (cars and pedestrians treated as equal) created. On each occasion these changes were heralded as visionary, and reflected the very latest in modern city design.

    This is the cycle that cities undergo. They start on a premise that can’t be sustained, and are altered as populations grow. You would of course be aware of the term “urban sprawl”, which was once the future made present, and is now being fought tooth and nail around the world. Then the idea was to go up. Higher density, accommodation and commerce in taller buildings. (CHCC is at this stage).

    Higher density is now being fought. Planners realise that this ‘solution’ creates terrible social problems, of isolation, disconnectedness, ghettos of destructive thought; a city’s mental health, better planners now realise, cruels a city and defeats its purpose.

    The latest vision for a city’s development is really interesting. Planners now realise, too, that there is no golden solution, when once they did. So the best they can come up with is to cease reliance on the motor vehicle, integrate living with commerce, trying to get people out of their enclaves and into the street where gathering, and intereaction, can better take place.

    The function of the highway is soon to change. This presents an incredible opportunity for the latest integrated-style planning to happen right here in Coffs — but it will take a council and management very different from what we have. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that new plans are being implemented, with a much higher understanding, all around the world.

    You may find a few minutes, perhaps, to look at this video, which goes a little way towards explaining the new planning principles and objectives:

    I think it’s really helpful to think of a city, and its components, including the CBD, as a living organism. It has areas that perform certain functions, nourished by arterial pathways.

    The Coffs Harbour CBD is a pretty sick organism. Areas are in decay, some in atrophy. As mentioned, there is no quick fix and it’s too early for the next council to address — commonsense is the immediate order of the day — but there has to be a better understanding developed within council, rather than the hotchpotch tick-boxing that currently exists.

    In short, the CBD needs re-planning, to reshape its organic structure. The main thing, I feel, is to not tie up very significant funds in silly short-term attempts, as these are proven to not be solutions at all. I understand it’s a big undertaking. Coffs has always, though, chosen the simple, least visonary option and sold it as the best and latest. So, for now, helping to inculcate a mindset that sees the bigger picture would be a marked achievement.

    So it is a very, very different change in attitude, a change in the culture of thinking, that is requred. This will require a change in personnnel, too. I think Coffs has let the best slip by too often. It’s time to get it right for once — after the healing and installing of common sense, of course.

    1. Are you aware of the masterplan for the city? Early days yet but for us who have lived here for over fifty years it looks promising. Art gallery, library, museum, all easy access for residents and visitors and an entertainment centre planned for the future as well as residential living to encourage night dining in the area.

      1. Hi Margaret, it is especially wonderful and heartening to hear you are looking forward to an exciting future in Coffs Harbour, with your expectations met and your satisfaction looking assured.

        To answer your question, yes, I am. Today’s masterplans are the equivalent of the masterplans that existed historically, and were enacted, that led to a most unfortunate entry into town from the south, past an industrial onslaught to the eye; past a vast car park from the north; citizens living west of the highway in the CH basin having to cross it, and drive past more industry, signs shouting for attention, to get to the beach, or to drive through town just to have a swim or sit quietly on the sand; masterplans that led to the town being torn apart, confused, in competition with itself, uncertainty of commercial messaging, and poor and visually, and functionarily, haphazard land usage between these; of choked intersections; of a CBD that is really just a main street overspill, when that main street is itself in part atrophied; of a city completely reliant on the motor vehicle as we know it, and masterplanned to continue to do so, when these motor vehicles are already slated for extinction.

        That and more are from masterplans, and all the other big-sounding plans. The thing is, the community back then didn’t take a strong enough stand to stop it, or the few who did were outnumbered by those who weren’t informed so as to know what it would end up like.

        Trying to obtain more knowldedge is always good. Trying to do better is always good. Seeing what other city’s do is always good. An informed community can achieve for its citizens 57 years from now (did I get that right, from memory?) a fulfilling and satisfying place in which to live. It’s always good to try to do better, isn’t it? For them?

  2. I honestly don’t know what the solution for the CBD is but, as you said, the constant updating every couple of years with new pavers is a ridiculous waste of money. I actually very rarely visit the CBD to shop, I always go to the Plaza. Parking is easier, it is clean and I don’t get a cold wind whistling down between the buildings. Having the traffic drive through the CBD was a monumental mistake. It detracts from any ambience that is trying to be created. Stop the traffic and bring back the open space with eateries, stalls and an entertainment space.

    Another issue are the premises in the surrounding streets of the CBD. The shopfronts mostly are old and rundown. Not an inviting look.

    The main thing is that whoever gets elected surely couldn’t stuff things up even more than the current useless lot have. Could they?

  3. I as a ratepayer do not want to put more money in the pockets of developer mates by removing the developer contributions and loading it on to the backs of the ratepayers who will see no return. I want my rates used on community assets, I will never support a councillor who makes developers rich over caring for the whole LGA. Do not think people are so stupid that they will have their heart strings tugged by the housing shortage . We need housing so let the developers develop AT THEIR OWN COST, let’s see where their hearts are.

    Ps. The comment about using Melbourne as an example great idea and being from Melbourne myself and having worked with some of the most preeminent Architects and designers in Australia I speak with authority when I say you need outside consultants. You need the best and brightest and you need to looking see who got it right. We need to be looking outward not inward.

    1. Karen, I have read, and re-read, Nikki’s piece resulting from “questions from a small biz networking group” and I am struggling to find any mention of “removing the developer contributions and loading it on to the backs of the ratepayers” which I think would be in breach of the Local Government Act and State Government policy anyway.

      Would you care to enlighten us with evidence as to why and how you think this is what Nikki supports please?

    2. Well it didn’t take the Advocates for Advancement, or whatever name you lot go by, long to get down into gutter politics did it?

      A new low reached I see Karen? Heading for beyond the bottom of the barrel then are you?

      Innuendo, innuendo and more innuendo followed by; ‘I speak with authority’. What presumptuous tosh!

      I notice your ‘fellow traveler,’ David Hargreaves, did similar on social media recently alleging that “Trojan Horse” candidates are out in the open going for Council and ‘running cover for developers’. See a common thread here people?

      And he was also calling for candidate transparency all while failing to declare he is married to a senior CHCC Strategic Planner closely linked to the CCS project in Gordon Street.

      Talk about hypocrisy in my opinion! Talk about chutzpah in my view!

      So this is the ‘strategy’ of the pro-CCS group then is it?

      So be it. Keep going low. The voters will justly punish you for it.

  4. That person who was accurately named with a double entendre will never respond to intelligent questioning. There is no logic to posts emanating from groundless paranoid prejudice. If enough mud is thrown some of it will stick, but as thinking people, we can only ignore such lascivious drivel! Freedom of speech is everyone’s right, but you don’t have to dignify crank posts with a serious response.

  5. If you want Coffs Harbour to go backwards further just listen to Karen Lagalla because that is where it will be going.

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