Local, Opinion/Comment

“An elephant in a rats cage” – Councillor Arkan on Gordon Street

Question at tonight’s Council meeting – To allow to put the elephant in a rats cage or not?

By Councillor John Arkan

” I am passionate about a new cultural and civic precinct. A precinct that has room to expand with the growing city.

Councillor John Arkan

I understand the need and commit to give the library, museum and gallery the adequate space to serve the population of the city.

However, the Gordon street is too busy and the site too small for the cultural precinct.
I commend the Mayors commitment to the project I repeat, this is not a win or lose situation.

Our job as councillors is not merely to fulfil the current need but to look at the future needs. We can’t ignore the fact that with current solution, we are trying to put an elephant in a rats cage.

We have explored the capacity of Gordon street site that can give us a library across three floors of the building.
Currently, the library is on one floor and is easily accessible for all. Therefore, we are not placing the library in a better position. The new building will increase the service delivery cost even more because of it being spread over three floors.

The museum will only house 10% of its collection in the newly proposed building. Council will need to spend more money to have a storage shed to house the rest of the 90% of its collection. So the proposed building is not solving the museums problem either. They will need to cart the items in and out for display from offsite.

The Art Gallery is spread over two floors in the proposed building. It’s not ideal for the Art Gallery either.

The council staff offices are getting less space than they currently occupy. In the new building, they will have shared hot desks and staff will be expected to work from home with laptops and mobile technologies. Has this model been tested to be productive? We don’t know. In effect, we are losing dramatic amount of space and not future proofing the city.

If tonight’s resolution is rescinded , the Mayor is selling four council assets in including two of our valuable council assets in the CBD, the solid admin building and the Rigby House building currently enjoying the view to the Fitzroy Oval.

In the new building, what will be the view outside? Currently we have 3100sq in Castle street, and 1200sq Rigby house + another extra 1200sq that we hire.

We are losing a dramatic amount of space and not future proofing the city.

We need time, we need a change of spirit to explore other alternatives to achieve the goals.

We are the peoples representatives, elected to listen and act for the benifit of the city. Not only the CBd, not only the jetty or a particular section of this beautiful city.

Let’s hope, pray or what ever one does to explore hope, common sense and the people s voice is heard.
Denise Knight
Tegan Swan
Sally Townley

Other than the photo used the above is an unedited reproduction of a piece Cr Arkan put up on his Facebook page today Thursday 8 August 2019. It is republished in full.


  1. Thank you Councillor Arkan a voice of reason at last. I hope & pray common sense will prevail & your words will be listened to tonight & not dismissed as rhetoric… All good wishes for a great outcome for all Coffs Hbr residents ..

  2. An interesting article from The Advocate dated 25 October 2014. Especially this bit;

    “With the process of public consultation now under way on a new cultural centre, art gallery and library, and a possible future rate rise to pay for them, the Mayor warned against comparisons with Port Macquarie’s Glasshouse cultural centre.

    Widely praised for its design and its ability to attract major shows to Port Macquarie, the high initial cost and upkeep of the facility is still controversial in the Hastings community.

    She said instead of comparing itself with Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour should learn from the Glasshouse experience.”

    See: https://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/mayor-shoots-down-courthouse-rumours/2430479/

  3. I’m very glad to see Cr Arkan spell out the problems with the current build so clearly. There’s been much obfuscation around the actual floor space and interior design of the building. (White) elephant in a rat’s cage, indeed!

  4. UPDATE ..At 1.18pm the Change.org Petitions results.

    452 For the Project too Continue……a Whopping landslide of 1721 against the Project too Continue as it is.

    Norm Jordan Public Meeting of estimated 400 – 500 attending.

    2 vote for it…. The remainder against it. Another landslide.!!!

    Advocate had online poll showing the MAJORITY AGAINST IT.

    Having spent hours & hours of research across all Social Media the comments are a landslide of not in Favour of this project too proceed!!!

    The Advocate reported Mayor Knight that you ARE GUTTED with what has gone down .

    Let me tell you Mayor Knight , GM Steve McGrath ,Cr Michael Aidenorff,Cr Salley Townley, The Chamber of Commerce, The C.ex Club, the landowners of the CBD, ….and ALL THOSE so called experts and consultants ( that have been paid big money$$$ ) ……YOU ARE THE MINORITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The Majority who are the RATEPAYERS & RESIDENTS….are the Ones who are GUTTED with your ” Conduct & Behaviour of both past & present. CRIPPLES WE ARE NOT!!!
    Ray Hadley exposed the Truth of the person you are Mayor Knight. This was not an isolated incident either. Narcistic ego driven theatrical who simply loves a Standing Ovation!!!!
    Well at 5.00pm SURRENDER ….Mayor Knight….Listen too the Majority and do not use your casting vote…..In doing this you will receive a standing Ovation…and as the Thai people say….” Save Face” !!!

    Regards Max

    • Hi Max,

      My understanding is that with hard copy signatures of the petition supporting the rescission motion the actual number is closer to 2,000.

    • Hang onto your Petitions and Polls Max.They are not worth the paper they’re written on. Keep them next to your toilet just in case you run out of toilet paper.
      Your memory is short and you hang onto a public meeting of possibly 300 Pax.
      The polls also predicted a Labour win in both State and Federal elections…. and looked what happened.
      Pollsters, public meetings petitions are not relavent or reliable anymore.

      • So the casting vote of one person represents the ‘majority huh? Wow, that’s some interesting maths on display there Ray.

  5. John Christie

    Thank you, John, for your comprehensive and sensible contribution to this fiasco. You have restored some respect that we residents might have towards our councillors and council management. However, we only have you and 3 other councillors that have an understanding of Coffs Harbour’s needs and respect for all residents.
    I wish you the very best for tonight’s meeting.

  6. Thank you most sincerely Councillor Arkan for taking the time to pen this article. Your rational approach and comprehensive summary of the position is to be applauded. The proposed development in Gordon Street is, as you so eloquently put it: “an elephant in a cage”. To proceed on the original motion, which, in my opinion, was defective in that it did not provide Councillors with all the information required for decision making, would not be acting in the interests of the people. Let’s hope and pray that common sense prevails and that the Councillors entitled to vote, have been listening to the people. Janne C Lindrum

  7. Janet Courtney

    Thank you Cr. Arkan, you are indeed a voice of reason and common sense. Of course Coffs needs a Cultural Centre, but it must be one that includes and entertainment space. I would dearly love to be able to attend a ballet or symphony concert in a proper concert hall. I love the Jetty Theatre and the Library, but we also need a Concert hall and not new Council Chambers.
    As for your description of “an elephant in a rat’s cage”, it is the perfect description of that building being put onto that Block in Gordon Street.
    I too wish you every success at tonight’s meeting.

  8. Janice Butler

    Let us sincerely hope that at this precise time. ….5.15pm rational decisions are being made. Congratulations to John Arkan for his true and factual comments. Hooray. Denise Knight your time is up….sorry to say. Please step down.

    • Denise Knight has shown her true Character and voted with her casting vote against the RECISSION motion. A Sarcastic Narcist that is all about herself. If you are Jan Hopkins from ANZ & L. J. Hooker …you no all about Knight Mayor!!!

  9. How can any of you take this bloke seriously???.
    A couple of years ago when he was charged not once buy twice by the police for transferring number plates between vehicles and using unregistered motor vehicles you all would have been calling for him to resign.
    How can you take him seriously. Blatantly breaks the law and you lot want to trust him to be on council ans be involved with major decisions.
    You all are foolish and have double standards.

  10. Dick McDermott

    It’s time! Councillor Knight has spent too much time with the big end of town, you know the ones who just sign a cheque when their rates come round, who are out at business award ceremonies on a weekly basis and who are not representative of the average income earning Coffs Harbour rate payer. This is a poor local government area by any standards in Australia. There will be massive cost blowouts with this project, what makes it any different for other, out of their league projects councils have taken on and there will be rate increases or at best service cut backs to pay for it. This mayor has a duty to represent all the people in the city, not just fly off on some personal tangent regardless of how long she has advocated it or who is pushing it. Is this mayor blind to the opposition to this project? Because there is now faster growing opposition to the project and what it won’t deliver she had a duty to not use her casting vote to push forward but to step back until all the information both pro and con plus alternatives and all the costings could be put to all the ratepayers in a clear and succinct manner. There was enough negative information presented even at the last council meeting for her to vote for a pause but she did not and I won’t even start on the General Manager. The time must surely be up for this non representative mayor and some of here supporting councillors.

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