Coastal Works – what value, if any does it give ratepayers?

Ratepayers fund the Council operations, part of the rates received goes towards maintenance of infrastructure.

By Rodger Pryce

A lot of the maintenance required are items such as roads, bridges, parks, etc.. From a ratepayers perspective, it would appear that Council has difficulty in meeting the levels of maintenance required.

Enter Coastal Works, the area of Council responsible for these areas of maintenance.

Rebranded, a new board of directors, all the same people, apparently the objective was to create a new profit centre.

The “re-brand”

So, ratepayers who pay rates, whose livelihood relies on contracting their services to others, such as earthmoving, maintenance, etc., find they have a new competitor in their midst. A competitor they pay money to in the form of rates and often in the form of other government charges.

I am sorry, but I don’t get it.

Why compete against the hand that feeds you?

Why create a new brand at considerable cost and do exactly what you struggled to do previously?

Where is the benefit?

Where is the accountability?

The Council General Manager, Steve McGrath, pictured above, is a director of Coastal Works. As the Council General Manager, wasn’t he essentially that before anyway?

Wasn’t he the overall head of all that Coastal Works did, before Coastal Works existed?

Is it more efficient now?

How much did the rebranding cost?

How has Coastal Works been able to contract our Council services out to the private sector, when NSW Government identifies Coffs Council as collecting more rates and spending less on services than most other NSW Councils?

Fix your own back yard first guys before you think you’re good enough to go out and compete against the private sector.

Remember, the money you are spending comes from us.

Shake up time is here!


Rodger Pryce is now semi-retired and farms in the CHCC LGA. Previously he was in real estate for many years and was the principal developer of the new Coles site in Harbour Drive.

He has also been involved in other developments locally.


The above was first published at the Coffs Coast Independent News Facebook page on Friday 22 January 2021 where at 2.00 pm. that day it had attracted 74 comments and is reproduced here with Rodger’s permission.

5 thoughts on “Coastal Works – what value, if any does it give ratepayers?

  1. These contributions by Rodger Price are top-notch. Thank you.

    The information provided here, and the questions asked, are what we need now as we go forward in an election year.

    What I may add here is that a council General Manager is in usual circumstances recruited by the governing body – the councillors. A General Manager’s contract gets reviewed, and renewal of contract isn’t a given. A General Manager can be removed under what appears to be a strict process (so, too, supposedly, their recruitment) and I would place on the table at the beginning of this election year the reminder that power is invested in the community, through its chosen representatives, for change and renewal.
    Bearing that in mind, and in expression as people feel appropriate, is good and healthy for everyone, including a General Manager who resides in a privileged position on your behalf.

    This year could be the most important election year in the region’s history. It is the year that we choose to take the step up, find greater horizons, or to remain represented as we have been by the old ways as of the self-interested ‘country town’.

    1. A bit of history: Around the time the sale of council buildings to fund the CCS was first mooted, Roger commented here on CCO that such buyers simply do not exist owing to Coffs’ surplus office accommodation.

      This was before covid and how right his prediction proved to be.

      You’d think the amateur developers on council would’ve heeded the advice of someone with Roger’s level of experience of the local real estate market. But no, instead, they enlisted the services of an out of town marketing firm.

      Even though council sweetened the deal with lease-back provisions, they still failed to attract viable tenders and in the end council was advised it wasn’t a good time to sell and the properties were withdrawn from sale.

      1. And my apologies too, Mr Pryce.

        I was aware of that commentary, CLB, and found it bizarre.

        Terrie Beckhouse expressed a comment that brought to light again Mr Steuermann’s article on Coastal Works.

        This could really scare the bejeezus out of people, but let’s say it. The inkling of a far bolder picture is arising: one that may, just may, provide opportunity for a platform for new candidates to run for this year’s election.

        So far we have the community ripped to shreds over the CCS project – a divisive consequence that alone should warrant the removal of councillors who caused it. No LGA should suffer this degree of communal assassination, nor should put up with it. For this to have happened, something has gone very, very wrong.

        This leads to a movement which will build towards September whereupon the platform will be to scrap the CCS and provide a proper cultural plan. So far, such an alternative hasn’t been fully provided and if worst comes to worst I’ll write that article for review on what a proper Cultural Plan might look and feel like, as a starters. I hope, however, that such an idea might turn into a series — we have the time — from various contributors.

        Therefore the electoral platform so far would involve a new-slate beginning to recapture the fiscal and cultural integrity we deserve, rather than being given this hodgepodge rubbish from the Country Town Council-ers (CTC – a group including the GM), and which would deliver to the community an entertainment centre sooner than under the current CTC.

        That’s brilliant. But it may just be a start.
        It may be that an electoral platform can be devised in the adequate time available that involves a wholesale re-envisioning of Coffs Harbour, including its structural arms such as Coastal Works. Such a re-envisioning would require a General Manager whose experience extends far beyond the ‘country town’ and has lived experience of running a regional capital city, ideally one larger than Coffs, to guide us through. Let’s face it, Coffs Harbour would rather lovely place to move to, to do the job, wouldn’t it?
        It may also include a re-envisioning of the planning of the city. This is where it gets really scary for some, I’m sure.

        Very quickly, try to imagine what Coffs would look like if you had undeveloped topography and the desire to plan a city from scratch. What would that look like? Your first task would be to look upon the Great Divide meeting the sea, the basins fed by rivers, the flatlands, the wide opportunities to access the beaches.

        Flood would quickly come to mind. Imagine, then, Coffs Creek winding through parklands, circumscribed by a neat little wall as built around the then-empty Lake Burley Griffin, which in floods turned the parkland into a lake. No damage to property or, designed well, continued traffic movement.
        Where would you put the City Centre? Would it need one? How about planning the brand new city as a series of villages, instead. These are inter-connected by radial roads rather than major roads across which you have to drive to access the beach, with a visionary public transport system equally attractive as the use of a car. No traffic jams, no ugliness, no poor use of prime land for things like sprawling caravan parks, and gorgeous entrances from the north and south. And so it goes
        The point here is that Coffs never had that chance. Since its inception, it’s been a hodgepodge ‘planning’ of make-do as you go along. This is my most severe criticism of the current council – it is a continuation of that Country Town Council-er mentality. There is no true vision today, and never has been.
        During that mass influx in the seventies that saw little ol’ Coffs become the number one growth area of the state our town planner was held to the pedestrian concepts (far exceeded in sophistical, already, in other places) of not much better than ribbon development cum grid pattern overlayed onto the undeveloped land, and had no desire to hear of any better, as I’m informed.
        Don’t tell me Coffs is a “planned” city, nor has a “plan”. It doesn’t. This is now proven even to the most voracious skeptic or supporter by the utter lack of knowledge as to where a long, long-sought entertainment centre could go. Absolute Country Town Council-er habit.
        Thus, by scrapping the CCS and re-envisioning the city, the proper vision would do what no council so far has done, and that’s look at the whole shebang and ask “How could this be better?”.Don’t be misled by the grand-sounding names the current council gives its “plans”. And trying to strengthen the city centre, whatever and wherever that precisely is (??), is embarrasingly basic for what Coffs needs.

        Are we so bold as to re-envision what we have, in 2021? Rodger Pryce asked for a “shake up” – well, this would do it. Yet it need not be destructive nor frightening, and with the vast amount of experience residing in the city, experience that is too disgusted to be involved in the rubbish-y approach by those in public office and wouldn’t be welcome anyway, an opportunity for a new council established through a properly-envisioned platform presented to the public might excite the bejeezus out of the community as well.
        In any case, it’s worth mentioning and worth a look.

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