Local, Opinion/Comment

City Square: Kiosks and Chaos?

By the Editor.

On Saturday July 14 the Coffs Coast Advocate ran a front page story headlined ‘Their Stand’ in the hard copy editions of the paper.

The story reports on two kiosks in the Coffs Harbour City Square, MamaGOTO and Caffeine Central, who have launched a petition in an effort to ensure they remain part of any future plan to revitalise the space. They did this in response to a plan developed by the Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) that was presented to business owners and which was opened for feedback on the council’s website until Friday August 3.

The plan shows trees and seating where the two kiosks currently stand.

The CHCC’s Director of Sustainable Infrastructure Mick Raby (pictured below) is quoted as saying that the plan was the result of “extensive community consultation”. Mr Raby stated that “six hundred people were interviewed over a couple of months; asked what they like and don’t like and how it could be improved. It’s our genuine attempt at community consultation.”

In response to the City Square Plan the CoffsCoast Outlook understands that in the past two weeks alone that MamaGOTO has collected approximately 3,000 signatures supporting the kiosk’s  retention in City Square.

Interestingly the Advocate’s story also came out at about the same time CoffsCoast Outlook was being informed that there was more to the plan’s presentation than ‘met the eye’.

Readers of Outlook who retain keen memories might not be too surprised by this latest revelation.

On 26 April we published this story which outlined that there were more than a few CBD special rate variation ratepayers (SRV’s) who were very disgruntled with the way the CHCC thought that “reneging on agreements with ratepayers is OK and that it will have no consequences.”

So what is it that we understand may give more background to the recent City Square plan that is mentioned above?

Well that question is best answered in turn by a number of other questions.  Namely:

  • Did the CHCC do as agreed by resolution that they would consult with the CBD Special Ratepayers before changing the Terms of Reference?
  • Did the CBD Masterplan Committee have a quorum at the meeting where ‘an agreement’ was reached on the new City Square Concept Plan?
  • Has any money been spent from the Special Rate Variation account without it first being approved in CBD Committee Meeting Minutes (12 c in the Terms of Reference)?
  • Is there a resolution of council approving the new City Square Concept Plan?
  • Were ‘incentives offered’ to some of the kiosk owners by someone who (it could be argued) may have a ‘conflict of interest’ in relation to City Square?

Leaving aside the very coherent arguments by many of the commentators on The Advocate’s story linked above consider also the following.  If the above questions are answered as ‘No, No, Yes, No and Yes’ in order, as is suspected, then it’s a matter of;

“Ground Control to Major Tom, we have a problem! Who controls council, staff or the elected representatives?”

4 Comments

  1. Archie Black

    This is so very typical of our Coffs Harbour City Council. Many times, they conduct community consultations, performed by “Private Consultants”( at great expense) and if the results are not what is wanted by the Council staff (managers), they try again or in the case of the City Square or the Jetty4Shores,they go around in circles or do nothing.
    What is most disturbing though is that there are times when the Councillors have voted on a motion, the motion has been passed, but not acted upon by Council staff.
    Should some of the Councillors, the GM or managers want a different outcome, they sit tight, do nothing until when there are new Councillors in office after an election who are blindsided into voting for another motion to get the result they wanted in the first place, not knowing the history of any previous motions, the new Councillors vote based on the reports.
    Now,I am no Local Government lawyer, but I would think that once a motion has passed and not rescinded, the motion is binding on future Councillors and staff to carry out the intentions of the motion?
    Failure to do so within a reasonable space of time,surely, is a breach of the Local Government Act and the Minister should take action against the Council and GM for allowing this to occur?
    In the case of the CHCC, it seems to happen with alarming regularity !!!!
    P.S. Our Newscorp Media outlet ( Coffs Coast Advocate) plays a mischievous game at times when it reports Council matters in the paper, such as the City Square issue,the Cultural and Civic Space plans for new Council Chambers,offices, Art Gallery, Library and Museum.
    Such as when only part of the story goes to print; cherry picking it to make it look positive for the Council, and ignoring anything that may show the Council in a negative light.
    The Advocate is only telling part of the story when there are many more issues, the public are left in the dark about, that they should know.
    I suppose it is because such a lucrative source of revenue for the Advocate is derived from Council advertising and they maybe afraid of losing it for upsetting the Council’s apple cart ?
    mmmmm think about that for a second or three ???

  2. Rikki Bekker

    Many thanks for shining a light behind the scenes on this one guys. I have long suspected Council staff have been guilty of ‘running their own race’ at certain senior levels of the organisation.

    Archie – your comments encapsulate a lot of what I have been thinking and saying about the Council and The Advocate too for some time now. Well said, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

    The Advocate seems to think ‘holding the Council to account’ is no longer part of a newspaper’s job. All driven by fear the Council will pull advertising revenue perhaps?

    What is it going to take to change things? A public scandal? I notice the council panicked when the Nana Glen ‘rabid dog’ incident went big on social and mainstream media a couple of months ago. Perhaps that sort of publicity is needed again? Maybe an investigation into whether Council is in breach of previous motions as Archie suggests may be the way to go?

    I will say the comments under The Advocate story are pretty darn ‘spot-on’ though. Especially this one from Fayknews;

    “This is Council looking after the big end of town – the few local business families that own most of the CBD and have the ear of our local “representatives”.
    How about giving these popular local businesses a fair go.
    A popcorn booth? A DJ booth? An illuminated object? Seriously?
    Is there no end to the idiocy of this Council’s “planning”?

    Speaking of the Council ‘Planning’ Dept has anyone else heard stories about them making life endlessly difficult for wedding planners, fitness trainers and other small businesses in the area? Especially ones that might want to host events occassionally?

    You know events which, heaven forbid, might generate a bit of much needed socio-economic activity around here? All based on a small number of complaints from ‘the usual suspects’ in more than a few cases I am told.

  3. Terry Crowe

    Rikki, your bang on point re , the council buggering up small businesses that wish to do weddings etc , just ask everyone at Two Tails winery . As far as that rabid dog situation goes , they , the council have done nothing , gave a owner a nuisance dog notice ( that’s normally for a barking dog or one that shits on your front regularly) and completely ignored the legislation that clearly states that dog was either dangerous or vicious. They quoted the 1993 legislation, and made their decision or I should say the ranger made the decision even though he is best mates with the dog owner even though I pointed out that that legislation had been replaced in 1998 and 1999 . Apparently our council is exempt from state law .

  4. Rikki Bekker

    Thanks for the info on Two Tails and the dog attcak incident and background Terry.

    I didn’t know about Two Tails. That’s another one to add ‘to the list’. I heard over the weekend of another local business miles from nearest neighbours, that waspurpose built as a weekend/seminar/retreat place being given a ‘show cause’ notice over hosting weddings.

    Meanwhile weddings, and all the income into the local economy they bring with out of town visitors, head off to Byron Bay and environs instead. Of course this industry is even bigger now after last year’s Same Sex marriage vote.

    The people in the Council Business Development Unit, who are generally pretty fair dinkum in my experience, must be pulling their hair out at the ‘clown shoes show’ over in the Council Planning Department.

    By the way I have been told Council must investigate complaints but it does not have to act on them depending on the circumstances?

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