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
By 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
CONSOLIDATION OF COUNCIL OPERATIONS
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:
- 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
- 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
MONA is situated 19 minutes/11.5km outside the
commercial business district.
- 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”.
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.
- 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
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
EXPENDITURE OF RATEPAYER FUNDS, the aim being to
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/