In May-June 2019, our community was stunned when the new CCS plans revealed that Council offices had mysteriously replaced the long-awaited Civic Centre. And still, many wonder how this could possibly have happened. In response to citizens protests and questions, they were, in my opinion, treated to incomplete answers. Designed to divert rather than inform I believe.
By Tom Strickland AO
If you follow the processes 2018-2021 and the close involvement of Cr. Sally Townley, it would appear to me that she holds the key answers.
Over thirty years ago we lost our Civic Centre. Eleven years ago, Mayor Knight entered Council on a campaign to address this neglect with an Entertainment Centre – yet today, we are no closer to this goal. A more recent campaign (as in 12 years ago) renewed this promise when our Mayor excitedly backed architectural plans for City Hill as the ‘perfect venue’.
This project became the subject of in my view a duplicitous campaign using misleading, invalid information, mostly generated from within Council in my opinion, to kill the proposal and effectively render it a ‘nuclear ground zero’ in political terms.
A new campaign, circa 2018, emerged with the strategic separation of the CHEV by Council Resolution on the dubious grounds of divided interests between cultural groups. A gaping hole in the Cultural Centre now begged occupation.
A solution that evolved without a Council resolution of approval to act was hatched mysteriously and first emerged in the CCS project display.
THE CHARTER OF LGPAG.
This delegation of authority appears to be adequately brief and to the point. Quote: “THE LIBRARY AND GALLERY PLANNING GROUP (LGPAG) vision is to plan as a community and present to Council detailed facility research and a concept plan for a new Central Library and Regional Gallery for the Coffs Harbour Local Government area.”
This group of nine is a Planning group – not a Community Consultative group. There are no independent representatives present. It carries the dominant influences of three Councillors, Knight, Townley and Swan and, quite appropriately perhaps, six ‘devotees’ focused explicitly on the Gallery and Library.
It should be noted that the representatives on this committee are not empowered to comment on behalf of the Museum or present recommendations, research, plans or concepts relating to the (previously undeclared) Civic Space involving new Council staff facilities – yet they did!
On the Council Q&A response site in 2019, the question was raised as to how the Council offices appeared within the CCS. The response was that the Council received a recommendation from a Community Consultation Group recommending the inclusion of Civic Space to prove Council office facilities.
Open questions to Cr Townley
Questioned on CCO’s media site, Clr Sally Townley was asked:
“Were you part of the subcommittee or consultative group that recommended to Council that new Council Chambers be included in the CCS?
The response from Cr Townley in part was: “I was part of the consultative committee, but was never the chair of that group. The group, including myself, resolved to endorse the position of including Council offices. However, that group was not the final decision-making body for that decision. The decision-maker was of course Council and I supported that position as a Councillor.”
Given Cr. Townley seeks re-election next month, I believe that Sally should offer us thoroughly truthful and informative explanations to the following questions:
In your statement, you reported: “..resolved to endorse the position of including Council Offices.” With that in mind;
Q1. Was this “position” you mention solely a creation of the planning group? If not, please advise the origin of this proposal to include offices?
Q2. Are you aware of a Council resolution that existed before being considered by LGPAG to conduct a feasibility study to approve this project?
Looking forward to a response.