Coffs Council backs away from lighthouse museum? New Council Chambers to ‘cost $40m more’ than first estimated?

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform all lighthouse enthusiasts that due to a decision taken by the Coffs Harbour City Council on Thursday evening to advance the planning for their new office block in the Coffs Harbour CBD, containing their Council Chambers, Art Gallery and Library, and now with the addition of a new, smaller museum, it appears that they are no longer supporting our Australian National Lighthouse Museum at the Coffs Harbour Jetty.

By Rob Trezise

The fact is this Council now has legal possession of the former First Order Chance Brothers lens along with two other lens of a lesser order, after being gifted them by AMSA. The First Order Chance Brothers lens is irreplaceable and estimated to be worth $5 million.
After being locked away for around ten years, out of public sight, the opportunity to move the lens into something special for all of Australia has been lost due to a stupid planning decision by the Coffs Harbour City Council Planners.
It is believed that they have no experience with lighthouses and how lighthouse heritage should be displayed.
As owners of these lenses, the Council’s Planners are looking to incorporate the first order lens into the foyer of this building, and not in what has been our intention all along; The Australian National Lighthouse Museum..

For this to happen, after the Friends Of South Solitary Island Lighthouse started several years ago to plan and work for what was our belief, that our Council wanted the best lighthouse museum in the Southern Hemisphere, and encouraged us to aim for this, is extremely disappointing to see it dropped.

Despite all of our meetings and support from the community, AMSA, the Federal and State Government MPs, the former Deputy PM, we seemed to have failed, or has this Council never had any intention in the first place to put this historical and heritage listed lens into what was discussed and shown in their Jetty4Shores plans to be located where it belongs as a centre piece of the Coffs Harbour Jetty Foreshores.
This building would have displayed these lighthouse items with other lens and lighthouse equipment added adjacent to the Jetty.

If Council is determined to use these lenses as some pieces of sculpture in their building, it will remove all connection of what these lighthouse lenses represent to our community and heritage.

This Council building is estimated to cost in the vicinity of $75 million.

Do you think it is worth it, and the loss it causes to our lens ?
In light of this setback, I call on ALL lighthouse enthusiasts and residents of the Coffs Coast to express your displeasure at the Council’s lack of foresight by turning their back on the maritime heritage of this region.

You may leave your posts here and write to the Mayor, Cr. Denise Knight and the Coffs Harbour City Council General Manager, at  Locked Bag 155, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450


Outlook Editors note: The above post  appeared very recently on the Facebook page of Coffs Harbour’s  Australian National Lighthouse Museum site. (Emphasis in bold italics added). See:

The comments to it – published below – are extremely illuminating indeed. Especially the ones by the State MP for Coffs Harbour, Mr Andrew Fraser, pictured above.


Ellsworth Rollins $75mil for a Council building in Coffs?? 😳🙄


Andrew Fraser Shortsighted self egrandisment by a council who wish to build what we cannot afford and can be done in an alternate cost neutral way.

Rob Trezise Andrew, thank you for 28 years of dedication to our area as our local MP. And a huge thank you for your support at all times for the Australian National Lighthouse Museum for Coffs Harbour Jetty. The battle is not over as far as FOSSIL is concerned, thanks the foresight shown by the NSW Government to take the planning of Jetty 4 Shores away from Council and have a professionally prepared plan and concepts put forward. Perhaps the CHCC may go the way of Port Macquarie after the Glass House debacle a few years ago and be dismissed ?

Andrew Fraser Rob Trezise I am sure they are headed down the same slippery slope. $35m to $76m in a matter of Weeks? No public consultation all decided in a star chamber by unelected hand picked people.



Melissa Darnley Disgraceful! Happens all to often that people with no respect for the cultural and historic significance of such important items are put in charge of making these decisions. Truly tragic when all these priceless items of Maritime heritage are packed away or put on display for people’s amusement in places totally out of context! Mel Darnley, Cape Byron Lighthouse Volunteer.

3 thoughts on “Coffs Council backs away from lighthouse museum? New Council Chambers to ‘cost $40m more’ than first estimated?

  1. This council is beyond reprehensible. The mayor is attempting things well beyond her capacity and the GM is nothing but a highly paid hack. At least with the “days” of Keith Rhodes the extremes were reigned in a little. Gawd help us all!!

    (Amended slightly at 19-06-18 12.17 p.m. – Editor)

  2. Yes Andrew, I agree. So the ‘BFC’ and the ‘Puppet Master’ (aka the GM) are up to their old tricks again are they? Does the Mayor really know what is going on?

    I could of sworn we were hit with a special IPART approved swingeing special rate increase about three years ago because we were financially up ‘poo creek without a paddle’ to the tune of $75m or thereabouts.

    Now, some three and a bit years later, apparently we need a massively expensive Grand Palace of Crassness as some sort of memorial to the current council!

    Where the hell did all the money for this flight of fancy come from? How have the costs exploded so much? Did we really need that special rate increase?

    What agreements, if any, did council have with FOSSIL and the Australian Lighthouse Association people? Has Council reneged on its word, again?

    What public consultation about an approximately 125% increase in building costs, if the $75m figure is correct, has occurred?

    Who is pulling the wool over the eyes of who in council? Why am I so bloody angry!?

    This sucks. It’s way past time for an administrator to be put in charge of this ‘shower’ posing as a ‘representative council’.

  3. The following letter appeared in the Coffs Coast Advocate this morning. It is from a retired local Barrister:

    ” Council is so sure of its business case for spending $76 million on a “Cultural Centre” that it won’t give ratepayers 30 days to examine the 500 pages of documents supporting this expenditure.

    After council’s business case had been available to the public for four business days, it voted 6:2 to proceed down a path to spend $76 million on a new multi-story administration building, which also contains a library, art gallery and museum.

    Without the opportunity to review some very doubtful assumptions supporting the business case, ratepayers have been asked to accept the fact that a council, which has been struggling to reach a small budget surplus, can borrow an additional $45-million, without it having a significant impact on its forward budgeting and its ability to provide core services.

    The group of people wanting to question the business case support the need for a new library, art gallery and museum.
    Cultural and Civic Space announced: Council decide on Cultural Centre Proposal

    However, they believe that there are other far cheaper options to provide these facilities, without forcing ratepayers to take responsibility for repaying a $45 million loan.

    If both the business and the general community either support this expenditure or simply don’t care, then the small group of people who think it’s a bad idea, should stop agitating.

    People must understand that it’s no good starting to complain when your rates go up and council services are cut.

    Before I stop annoying some councillors and staff, I invite council to explain to the public;

    How it is going to generate $20-million by selling three commercial properties without a long-term tenant?
    Why is it going to divert $10-million, which could be used to provide its core services, to partially fund its administration centre /library, art gallery and museum?
    How is moving the library and art gallery a couple of hundred metres closer to Harbour Drive going to invigorate the town centre?
    When the project starts to exceed the $76-million already forecast, how will council fill the shortfall?
    How it can substantiate the courageous projections for increased tourist numbers visiting the art gallery, library and museum?

    As it’s ratepayer’s money who amongst the councillors and senior staff has any experience in the property development industry?

    Peter Wardman,

    Coffs Harbour.”


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