The former State member for Coffs Harbour since 1990, Mr Andrew Fraser, has joined the debate over the Cultural and Civic Space saying there is an easier alternative, which he believes could be almost cost neutral for ratepayers.
Talking to the Coffs Coast Advocate today Mr Fraser said that he has been warning against the project since it was first developed and when the cost was estimated to be $35million.
Mr Fraser said he didn’t believe in wasting public funds and argued Gordon Street was just that.
The proposed Cultural-Civic Centre which would include a new library, art gallery, museum and council office administration space, is currently estimated to cost $76.5million but there are fears among some councillors that this could blow-out to as much as $100-million with long-term consequences. the addition of Council Chambers and Administration has added at least $41 million to the concept
The Coffs Harbour City Council vote will decide whether or not to proceed to the tender stage next.
Some councillors, including Paul Amos and Tegan Swan, have aired concerns about the costs and the proposals to fund the building, especially given their have been a number of unsuccessful funding proposals to both the State and Federal Governments.
Mr Fraser told The Advocate “We need to take a deep breath and take a good look at the alternatives and see what can be done at zero or very low cost to ratepayers”.
He went on to say that in his view the “project is the greatest waste of money ever seen”.
He argued the Council had the opportunity to add storeys to the current council chambers and that option had been investigated and costed.
Mr Fraser belives the Gallery should be moved to City Hill with the library being expanded into the old Art Gallery space. He believes if that were to be done “then it comes out at nil, or next to nil, cost to the ratepayer” he told The Advocate.
He then went on to say that there had been ‘zero’ interest in the project from the State and Federal governments. Which could explain the lack of Government funding.
Mr Fraser said he believed Council’s back-up plan was to sell the airport bwhich currently makes a profit of $3 to $4milion a year.
Councillors will meet on Thursday evening at 5pm to vote on taking the project to tender stage. The public is encouraged to attend.
The Friends of the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery and Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce have come out strongly in support of the project and are lobbying councillors in the lead up to the crucial vote.
They have been countered by prominant local businessman Mr Steve Gooley, the GM of Park Beach Plaza and the Bachrach Naumburger Group, who also argues that the proposal will ‘saddle the city with debt for years to come and that the eight figure sum of money Council want to spend on the project could be spent better elsewhere’.