A letter from a ratepayer to the CHCC objecting to demolition DA

Over the past weekend we published a story outlining a motion Councillor Keith Rhoades had moved at the last Council meeting on Thursday 12 September calling for a halt on the DA application to demolish 27-31 Gordon Street until the NSW Legislatice Assembly has had a chance to discuss the petition against the development from approximately 13,000 Coffs Harbour citizens.

The motion was seconded by Councillor Sally Townley (below) and got the support of five of the eight Councillors.

Cr Townley

See our story on it here; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/council-votes-to-defer-gordon-street-demolition-and-awaits-community-objections/

Councillor Rhoades also called on ratepayers to write to all Councillors and the GM and outline in writing their reasons for objecting to demolition taking place before this debate can be held.

Today we publish below, with the permission of the author, one of the letters sent to Council in support of Councillor Rhoades motion. The writer of the letter has asked us to maintain their anonymity in this instance;

“17 Sept 2019

The General Manager

Coffs Harbour City Council

Castle Street

Coffs Harbour NSW 2450


I write to express my objection to Council’s Development Application 0199/20DA on the following basis:

  1. The initial development proposal presented to the public included performing arts space and no Council premises. I contend that Council intentionally misled the public in this regard to falsely engender public support. It is evident from the 2016 change that Council had intended from the outset, to include new Council offices, in lieu of the performing arts space.
  • Council’s proposal for redevelopment of the subject site is entirely based on contrived public support.
  • Public claims by the Mayor as to the engagement with 1800 citizens is without substantiation. My own investigations suggest the group was a “closed shop” of invited persons, attending multiple sessions.
  • The project was never planned to benefit the wider Local Government Area and residents, but rather, a small section with vested interests aligned with Council itself.
  • The Mayor’s assertion that the inclusion of new Council Chambers was at the behest of an unqualified Library Gallery Advisory Panel is ludicrous. Moreover, it suggests Council is managed by the influence of vested interests, rather than qualified experts in town planning and design.
  • Council has failed to provide the Councillors with the appropriate level of financial and supporting information, sufficient for them to be fully cognisant of the feasibility of the project.
  • The project base level documentation presented to the Councillors and public is entirely insufficient to substantiate the costings and feasibility expressed by Council.
  • The project is entirely unfit for purpose, containing insufficient spaces to provide even an equal level of contemporary space as occupied by the current facilities and staff.
  • Council has abused its planning guidelines in incorporating no parking space on site. Parking in the CBD is at a premium and Council would not afford any other CBD development the same latitude.
  1. The project provides no capacity for future growth or additional development, thereby making it redundant from conception.
  1. Council through its executive managers has misled the public, including within the Council Chambers in meeting time, in asserting it has the financial capacity to service the suggested project loan.

The cost of the proposed $46Million debt based on Council’s stated 30 year term and 2.6%pa interest rate, would amount to in excess of $66Million or more than $183,000 (principal and interest) per month.

  1. The decision made by Council to proceed with the project was entirely concocted as evidenced by neither the Mayor or General Manager objecting to a supportive Councillor, with strong implications of a significant conflict of interest, to voting in such a contentious and significant matter.

    It would be entirely fair for the public to believe there was collusion at the highest level within Council in order to allow that Councillor to vote.

I suggest the act was premeditated to enable the Mayor to use her casting vote to sway the final decision. The General Manager is sufficiently experienced to know that once the decision was made in the contentious Council Meeting, it would not be overturned by the Office of Local Government. It was an abuse of the Local Government system and abuse of the Executive position.

Had either the Mayor or General Manager acted with proper governance, the exclusion of the subject Councillor, would have still left sufficient Councillors to make an unbiased decision, without a corruptive influence.

  1. There is no substantiative basis for Council’s asserted financial benefit from the project, which was irresponsibly supported by a compliant local Chamber of Commerce executive. This implies an unhealthy link between Council executive, the Chamber of Commerce and other vested groups linked to and benefiting from the project.
  1. The Council and Mayor have blatantly ignored the objections of 13000 local adult residents, exceeding 33% of the registered voting public, to halt progress of the project, based on a lack of proper and candid community consultation, lack of financial feasibility and community benefit.
  1. The Mayor’s claim of 13000 residents as being a “noisy minority” and scoffing at the signed petition delivered to the NSW Parliament exemplifies that Council was never interested in the community’s opinion, never intended to properly engage and inform the community, and fully intended to deceive the community for its own benefit.
  1. The Council has through its actions in respect of the project, committed serious breaches of the Guidelines governing its conduct and the parameters for managing the Local Government Area.

Support for Motion MUN 19/05 – Council Meeting 12 September 2019

I fully support the Motion tendered by Cr Rhoades for the cessation of any action in respect of the subject Gordon Street property without the consent of the majority of Councillors.

I reject, on the basis of past conduct, that the Council has proven itself sufficiently unbiased as to be trusted as the approving authority under delegation.


Cr Rhoades


  1. All I can say is thank you for saying what the majority of ratepayers think.
    These councillors really need to have a good look at themselves, they know darn well they are have misled the ratepayers. As for the mayor, she had my 100% support when first elected, however now, I can only watch in horror at the level of deception she has used the push this through.

    If this was for a Cultural and Arts Centre only, I would willingly consider it, however, it’s current format does not justify the ratepayers money that this council wants to spend. (Let alone the 50% overrun that we all know will occur). Just My Humble Opinion.

    • I total agree. A new libary is needed and a cultural center could be used wisely and benefit people in coffs harbour but there is no need for fancy council chambers at all when they already own the building there In and also completely avoiding the issue with parking in coffs CBD. Also the build Will look well out of place in that spot.

  2. I say take this to a much broader and higher level media as quickly as possible.

  3. The silence in the media this morning is deafening given a press release was put out by the group Citizens Voice Coffs Coast on behalf of the 13,000 Coffs Harbour residents who signed the petition. The press release was sent to tv radio and press organisations who deliver news to the Coffs Coast.

  4. Succinctly put. I checked last year on our the number in our electorate and it was 53,000. (approx) The number of rated properties was 33,000 so the number of signatures on the petition is certainly a third of the number of ratepayers.
    Now what do those people who have signed the petition do? That is the worry. The LG Ombudsman’s office has no control over the council, neither does the OLG. The Minister for Local Government refers complaints to the OLG.

  5. If our own council, show that corruption & ignorance is acceptable & ok, what does that say to our youth, who look up to our leaders within our community?
    Council have not only failed badly regarding the management of this project, they have also failed again at being proper upstanding leaders and role models within our community.

  6. I can’t help but wonder, why is our mayor pushing so hard to get this project of the ground, what is she trying to cover up, is the council in trouble financialy, has someone had their hand in the till, the mayor is hell bent on bulldozing this project through, without any consideration, or respect for the people of coffs harbour. I can’t help but think that Denise Knight and a couple of her cohorts have a hidden agenda.

    • Ian, I can’t comprehend why Mayor Knight is behaving so bad and just what is driving her (financial gain, ego, status, etc?), does she have a medical issue? Can’t make sense of anything she does or says. However, what is clearly evident is that she is controlled by McGrath to suit his agenda and could end up as McGrath’s ‘fall girl’.
      We can rid our town of Knight, Adendorff, Cecato & Townley at next year’s election (if they haven’t been dismissed before then). The big problem is just how do we rid our town of McGrath & his mates?

      • John Christie the Answer is EGO and Narcisstic personality!!!! Which is a medical mental illness. Google it. On Q & A this week former labour SentatorSam Dystari answered it honestly and admits that they all live in a bubble and Ego is their downfall.

        • Ron, yes it does seem that the mayor’s behaviour could have a lot to do with your diagnosis. It’s such a shame that our town has such a person as mayor.
          Do you have any views on what drives and motivates McGrath or is it simply a hunger for power and/or a control freak?

          • John Christie, Power & Control are GM Steve McGrath’s characteristics. Ask any CHCC council staff past and present. Dictator characteristics ! Arrogant as well. A very disliked GM/CEO of CHCC with his management style and attitude staff at CHCC have told me. A control freak and does not like being questioned or challenged. You can hear this all the time in the audio Council Meetings when questioned by councillors . He is the puppet master and has them all on his strings. Especially Mayor Knight.

            • Ron, for such a undesirable person to continue to survive, McGrath is cunning and knows how to exploit local government. For the good of our town and Council staff, McGrath has to go and soon. With what seems an uncaring Minister and OLG, it will take a huge effort to remove him from office.

  7. Can anybody tell me how many RATEPAYERS have so far written support for
    Have we past the required 25 required.

    • I’m not sure there is a firm count from the public, but I am aware of atleast 23. It will comfortably pass the requirement.

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