Local, Opinion/Comment

An open letter to Council and others about Gordon Street

Since coming to Coffs Harbour 3 1/2 years ago, I have observed a
pattern of behaviour that is of some concern; i.e. the exclusion of
the female voice in behind-the-scenes communique directing and/
or attempting to influence decision-making that impacts on the
entire community.

By Jan Lindrum

Jan Lindrum

In my opinion, this behind-the-scenes activity
breaches provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act and should,
therefore, be called to account. We live in the 21st century and,
when it comes to important decision-making; decision-making that
will impact a community for the long-term; I think it is absolutely
critical that all voices are heard and a policy of “inclusion”

I have applied to Council to speak briefly at the meeting scheduled
for Thursday next 11 July 2019. As I think it unlikely that Council
will provide me with an opportunity to speak at this meeting;
possibly because there are already too many speakers; I have
decided to coin this letter.

I’m confident there is no need to outline the responsibilities that
attach to taking on the role of a Councillor. But, as there are parties
to this letter who are not Councillors, hereunder the affirmation:
“A Councillor solemnly and sincerely declares and affirms that he/
she will undertake the duties of the office of Councillor in the
best interests of the people.”

One might argue that this affirmation goes to the very root of the
matter scheduled to go before Council this Thursday; Whether or
not it is in the “best interests of the people [the rate-payers] of
Coffs Harbour to construct a Cultural & Civic Centre opposite an
old carpark and alongside a narrow laneway at Gordon Street; to
incorporate a gallery, museum and library/information centre.”

The affirmation goes a step further.
“A Councillor affirms that he/she will faithfully and impartially
carry out the functions, powers, authorities and discretion vested in
him/her under the Local Government Act 1993 or any other Act to the
best of his/her ability and judgment.”

Heavy responsibilities indeed.

I accept that the people of Coffs Harbour deserve a new art gallery,
museum, performing arts space & library (information centre) but
provision of these facilities must deliver a return on investment and
I remain unconvinced that developing these facilities in this locale
will show a healthy return on investment. To the contrary, I am
concerned that rate payers will shoulder debt.

It is far more likely, for example, that tourists would visit a
performing arts precinct incorporating art gallery museum,
National Cartoon Bunker, restaurants etc. near an airport, abutting
a 27-hole pristine golf course and within a stone’s throw of
marina/jetty precinct and magnificent beaches than arts/education
facilities inside a Council Chambers.

There is a difference between the Art of Council operations and an Arts precinct. If tourists hordes were drawn to Gordon Street, how is it proposed
to control traffic and pedestrian flows in a precinct that is already

I accept that the business of Council needs to be consolidated in
one building but I do not accept that the plan to develop a Civic &
Cultural Centre in Gordon Street is in the best interests of the
people [the ratepayers] of Coffs Harbour, for the following reasons:

  1. It will be far less expensive to redevelop Council’s existing
    Chambers at the corner of Coff & Castle Streets and
    redevelopment of Council’s chambers in this locale is logical as the
    operations of the City should be at the gateway to the commercial
    precinct and said building is easily accessible from a northerly and
    southerly direction.
  2. The tourism sector of the City of Coffs Harbour
    extends from the Airport to City Hill and the marina/jetty
    precinct. The tourism sector does NOT extend to the
    commercial CBD. The commercial CBD does, however, present
    an opportunity and a need for the development of mixed-use
    residential product and expansion of the existing retail and
    hospitality sectors within that zone and will be well-served by the
    continuing expansion of the C.Ex Servicemen’s Club.
    It would also be well-served by closure and activation of the Coffs
    Central section of Harbour Drive; sculptures, street art and a wellco-
    ordinated and well-funded program of entertainment.
    The Coffs Central draw-card is CBD “Retail”, “Liveability” and

    The Art Gallery of NSW, the Louvre in Paris, the National Portrait
    Gallery in the ACT, the National Gallery in London; there are
    thousands of examples across the globe of galleries/performing
    arts/entertainment centres/museums and so on, situate on the
    outskirts and NOT inside the commercial districts of cities
    and certainly not mingled with the commercial operations of
    Take MONA as an example.
    “…Australia’s most moribund economy was still gripped by the
    fallout from the GFC. The Australian dollar was on par with its US
    counterpart, wood-chipping forests for export was not paying the
    bills, and it just did not seem like the future.
    As David Walsh was carving his museum into the rock on the banks
    of the Derwent, there was concern in Tasmania about the vision
    that lived in his mind.
    But the then Premier of the State could feel it. [Thank God for his
    Over the past seven years there have been more festivals, more
    exhibitions, more provocations and millions more tourists coming
    to Tasmania to see what happens when you descend the long stair
    case into the rock and down to the museum floor.
    Has MONA changed Tasmania?”

    It is indisputable that the museum has changed not just Hobart but
    the STATE.
    MONA is situated 19 minutes/11.5km outside the
    commercial business district.
  3. Another example, HOBBITON in Tauranga, on the North Island
    of New Zealand.
    HOBBITON is 51 minutes from the commercial business district
    of the city.
    I don’t think Council can legitimately make a decision for the
    development of a “Cultural” Centre in Gordon Street. Council has
    an absolute “obligation” to oversee the development of a Centre of
    Excellence on the parcel of land known as City Hill; the caveats on
    the title to that land and the covenants that attach to the title
    evidence that “reality”.

  4. Arguments like, “But this is Coffs!! and the cost of earthworks on
    City Hill”, are fallacious and smack of self-interest on the part of
    landowners in the commercial business district who think that the
    Gordon Street project will stimulate the economy in the Coffs
    Central precinct to the point where it will be viable for them to
    develop their holdings. I respectfully submit that, from a
    development perspective, landholdings in the commercial business
    district will be worth far more if City Hill is developed as an iconic
    gateway to the City of Coffs Harbour.

    City Hill was gifted to the City by the Federal Government
    conditional upon the lands being developed for a Cultural Centre
    of Excellence and compatible tourism facilities.
  5. To quote from the Restriction on User:
    (a) The purpose of this covenant is to ensure that the land is
    used in perpetuity for the benefit of the community of Coffs
    Harbour in particular and by members of the public generally;
    (b) Council of the City of Coffs Harbour as to bind its
    successors and assigns in title hereby covenants with the
    Commonwealth of Australia that the land shall be used,
    developed or improved by or on behalf of the Council
    exclusively for cultural or civic purposes or associated
    tourist purposes.
    What must be seen as a bequest to the people of this City, City Hill
    is a gateway site that has the potential to put Coffs Harbour on the
    International map, nurture the artistic soul of the City, provide the
    City with a unique identity, create much-needed employment,
    stimulate economic activity in other zones, serve as a
    “CONNECTOR” in what is currently a dysfunctional and
    disconnected Regional City and serve as a stimulus for the National
    Cartoon Bunker which currently sits ‘as a shag on a rock’.
    The Education precinct extends from the C.ex Ex-servicemen’s
    International Stadium to the Southern Cross University and is an
    ideal location for the establishment of an Information Centre
    (library). Learning/Education should be centralised; in the one
    locale. Centralised learning environments provide a City with an
    opportunity to build the kind of profile needed to draw speakers/
    conferences from across the world and escalate the growth of
    enterprise hubs. Centralised learning environments also create a
    love of wisdom which is desperately needed to lift the intellectual
    provide a healthy return on investment.
    In my opinion, Council should immediately desist from expending
    further rate payer dollars on the proposed development of a Civic
    & Cultural Centre in Gordon Street and seriously reflect on its
    decision-making on a multiplicity of fronts.
    In relation to the proposed development in Gordon Street:
    • Gordon Street is a terrible location and the scheme gives the
    appearance of being plonked onto rather than master planned
    into the site. Best financial outcomes for ratepayers flow
    from master planning cities as a whole rather than
    taking a piecemeal/random approach;
    • Considerable public funds have been committed for a schematic
    design. A schematic design is only the first phase in the evolution
    of a project. It is impossible to cost a schematic design and the
    stated $76.5 million dollars is likely to escalate dramatically,
    burdening the ratepayers with debt. No evidence has been
    produced to suggest otherwise;
    • Development of a Civic & Cultural Centre in this location poses
    extreme, adverse traffic consequences;
    • The Gordon Street site is NOT the Cultural heart of the City
    but a site which is part of the commercial/residential CBD;
    • The scheme is out-of-context, having no regard to developed
    lands and proposed development in the neighbouring surrounds;
    • Unrealistic expectations in relation to the proposed liquidation of
    Council-owned assets to help fund the proposed Civic & Cultural
    Centre. Valuations should be made public;
    • Glorified citadel which is totally unnecessary for the business of
    • Excessive cost to ratepayers of maintaining an unnecessary, large,
    imposing building for the consolidated operations of Council
    when a far less-expensive and far more intelligent option
    • The “reality”, that, in the great cities of the world Arts precincts
    are not located in commercial districts. The Art Gallery of NSW
    is a prime example, sitting as it does, as a landmark on the
    outskirts of the Sydney CBD and not in the commercial district.
    The Art Gallery of NSW was founded in 1880. Thank goodness
    the visionaries who founded the Art Gallery of NSW did not
    adopt the view: “But this is just Sydney!!”

    $76.5 million dollars is a lot of money. What can the ratepayer buy
    with that amount of money? Well, ratepayers could own a revenuegenerating 5-Star hotel outright for $45 million dollars, leaving sufficient funds for the redevelopment of Council’s existing
    Chambers, implementation of graffiti management and streetscape
    activation programs and sufficient seed capital; from equity,
    government grants and borrowings; to establish a revenue
    generating Centre of Excellence on City Hill, new library/
    information centre at the Southern Cross University and upgrade
    to existing University’s lecture theatre.
    Every good wish to you all for the best outcome for the ratepayers.
    Janne C Lindrum.

The above letter, dated 9 July 2019, was sent to all Coffs Harbour Councillors, the President of the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce and the State member for Coffs Harbour, Mr Gurmesh Singh.

A biography of Dr Lindrum can be found here: https://lindrum.com/author-biography/


  1. Brilliant Janne C.Lindrum. This letter needs to be seen and read by all. It needs
    linked too all Social Media.
    Thankyou for your time in writing this letter Janne.

    I urge you and all those people who want this too be on City Hill too go to http://www.shellharbourciviccentre.com.au and look at what has been built at a cost of $60 million .

    It’s a similar site too City Hill and is absolutely Brilliant. All the info is on the website with a Virtual Tour and the 30 yr planning too build this Masterpiece timeless building with views westerly too the Escarpment.

    I would love our local councillors to take a trip down there. And see what has been created.

    Cheers Max 🙂

  2. Thank you Janne, a sensible and persuasive summary of the major issues, or failings on the part of Council’s rationale. It is hard to fathom how any Councillor who understood their responsibility to the entire community as opposed to a group of CBD property owners, could vote in favour of the shortsighted project. The bloody mindedness of those Councillors in following the General Manager’s behest, will effectively stifle culture and performance arts on the Coffs Coast for decades. The debt burden these Councillors will leave the City will quash any ability to attract private, state or federal funding for a credible centre of excellence. A shameful legacy.

    Finally, I return to the misinformation peddled by Council and the knowingly false financial justification. It is a shame even the Chamber of Commerce, supposedly business persons, could do no better than to “parrot” the same erroneous information without analysis or question.

  3. Janne would you be able to post your letter to your Facebook page so that it may be shared far and wide asap?

  4. Hi Chris, I was suffering food poisoning yesterday so not myself. I’ve just seen your message. I summarised the letter on Facebook as Facebook will now, apparently, now permit the post of an entire letter, it has to be posted page by page. Let me know what else I can do to help. Jan

  5. Thank you Janne. Just checked your FB page in order to share your comments, but the post doesn’t seem to appear. Cheers Chris


    I am wondering if any of the coucillors who voted for this have read anything that has been written (over these past weeks) by some very informed people. SURELY this information is worth some consideration and merit. I have just looked at the Shell Harbour site, looks magnificent ( see Max Smart’s comment above for details).

    The present Gordon Street model / design is NOT A VIABLE PROPOSITION



    Thank you Jane for your many, many letters and such a commonsense approach to this dilemna.
    I applaud you for the tme and effort that you have expended to give us information which makes sense to me and plenty more, though it would appear that some Councillors are still by guided by others which could be a catostrophic decision for Coffs Harbour.

  8. A very well researched and informative letter, Jan.
    I sincerely hope that ALL the councillors will take the time to read it.
    There is a lot of vested interest by a small number of people in the city, who appear to have a lot of influence with the council members, not just the councillors. Unfortunately the cost and upkeep of this outrageously expensive building will be borne by the ratepayers.
    I must be honest and say that l don’t think the design is a good fit for Coffs Harbour, especially when it will be crammed into a side street.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *