Councillors move motion to halt Cultural and Civic Centre

The following motion has been moved for the online CHCC meeting to be held this Thursday 23 April;

The eight current Councillors – Photo CHCC archive.
Motion: Councillors Rhoades, Swan and Amos in accordance with cl 17.6 of Council’s Code of Meeting Practice, have given notice of their intention to alter Resolution Nos. 2020/13, 2020/14, 2020/53 and 2020/15 in the following manner:   “That Council, due to the uncertainty of the Australian economy, our local economy and the uncertainty of the future financial needs of our community due to COVID-19 suspend all works on the Cultural and Civic Space Project as well as the sale of Council properties associated with this project.”

Rationale:

“We now live in a climate of total uncertainty both locally and Australia wide regarding the health, wellbeing and financial security of our communities.  Our community faces tough times ahead, job losses, health issues, possibly the loss of loved ones and the uncertainty of what may lay ahead.  We as a nation have never experienced such measures as in place now and the uncertainty of what may lay ahead.  Council needs to pause this major project until times of financial security of our community is clearer.  It may be short term, it may be longer.  That is the uncertainty of COVID-19.  Our community now needs more than ever the financial support of this Council.”

UPDATE – 3.30 p.m. – 20-4-20;

The following question on notice from Cr Amos is also on this week’s CHCC agenda along with Council’s response;

Question

Some nine months ago Council resolved to receive a report by an independent expert reviewing the ability of council to service borrowings proposed for the Gordon St project which will comprise of a new art gallery, museum, library and council offices.

The purpose of seeking this report was to confirm the ability of council to service proposed loans. Whilst I am informed by council staff that this report is imminent, the relevance of this report now may be questioned if it is not amended to include economic changes that are impacting upon us profoundly.

Councillors will soon vote on accepting, or otherwise, tenders on the purchase of council buildings, thus creating a “point of no return” relating to the progression of the Gordon St Cultural and Civic Space Project.

Very recent developments impacting upon the council’s debt service capacity include the crisis of COVID 19 and the magnitude of the waste management legal dispute pending ( reported Prime 7 News). Will these critical new developments be factored into the review so as to provide Councillors an accurate and current position from which to make well informed decisions when assessing offers on the proposed sale of real estate assets to part fund the Gordon St project?”

Response

The independent peer review reports are included in this business paper. The peer review of Council’s Long Term Financial Plan relates to the plan used for the completion of the Concept Business Case and therefore does not include subsequent events.”

——

Editor’s note: My emphasis added above. Does this response not in effect translate as follows?

No we haven’t allowed for Covid19 effects or the potential Waste Management legal case costs or any other subsequent potential substantial changes to Council’s revenue base over the past nine months.”

See; https://infocouncil.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/Open/2020/04/CO_20200423_AGN_2215_AT_WEB.htm

15 thoughts on “Councillors move motion to halt Cultural and Civic Centre

  1. This makes good sense, put a hold on all unnecessary until clearer recovery is in place. Please make sure we are financial stable out the other side of COVID however long it takes .

  2. Common sense. and if any Councillors vote against this their bona fides have to be brought into question.

  3. The following question on notice is also on this weeks agenda along with Council’s response;

    Question

    “Some nine months ago Council resolved to receive a report by an independent expert reviewing the ability of council to service borrowings proposed for the Gordon St project which will comprise of a new art gallery, museum, library and council offices.

    The purpose of seeking this report was to confirm the ability of council to service proposed loans. Whilst I am informed by council staff that this report is imminent, the relevance of this report now may be questioned if it is not amended to include economic changes that are impacting upon us profoundly.

    Councillors will soon vote on accepting, or otherwise, tenders on the purchase of council buildings, thus creating a “point of no return” relating to the progression of the Gordon St Cultural and Civic Space Project.

    Very recent developments impacting upon the council’s debt service capacity include the crisis of COVID 19 and the magnitude of the waste management legal dispute pending ( reported Prime 7 News). Will these critical new developments be factored into the review so as to provide Councillors an accurate and current position from which to make well informed decisions when assessing offers on the proposed sale of real estate assets to part fund the Gordon St project?”

    Response

    The independent peer review reports are included in this business paper. The peer review of Council’s Long Term Financial Plan relates to the plan used for the completion of the Concept Business Case and therefore does not include subsequent events.”

    (My emphasis added. Translated; “No we haven’t allowed for Covid19 effects or the potential Waste Management legal case costs???”)

    See; https://infocouncil.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/Open/2020/04/CO_20200423_AGN_2215_AT_WEB.htm

    1. So after 9 months we have a financial analysis based on the situation of 9 months ago? Have I got this right? Then if that is the case the report is about as much use as teats on a bull. In fact in the current situation it is a load of bull.

      Cr Amos should ask as a supplementary Q for a new Council revenue prediction report to be tabled in a fortnight that takes into account the Covid19 crisis and also the potential legal costs of the Waste Management and any other pending legal cases.

      The one to be tabled this Thursday strikes me as being worthless now given recent ‘events’.

  4. I think the halting of the Civic Centre project is a great idea due to the future financial position that the Council and community might face due to COVID 19.

  5. My concern is the deferment of Local Council elections because of the Covid-19 health emergency. I have written to all Councillors (and to G Singh) suggesting that they have an obligation under Westminster principles to act only in caretaker made beyond the date which elections would have been held. However, given that the Mayor has previously ignored Westminister principles in her use of a casting vote, I am not hopeful that this entreaty will prevail. Looking therefore to the Minister for Local Government to step in and support the clear majority in this community by putting a moratorium on this project.

  6. I too have written the Minister for Local Government (30 March 20) requesting that when the term of office for the current councillors in complete, they are permitted stay only in a caretaker role with no important decisions being made whist in this role. I supplied adequate reason for this request. Interestingly, except for acknowledgement of receipt of my letter (sent by email) I have not had a response. I wonder if I will?

  7. Is there cause for a public class action against Council if they go ahead with this expensive plan in the current economic uncertainty?

  8. 40 cm Pedestal Fan: yes. In fact the four pushing it thru, “no matter what”, the General Manager and possibly some of the other executive staff of Council due to not having acted, on numerous aspects and occasions IN GOOF FAITH, are potentially personally liable in my opinion.

    The only protection I understand that the Act avails Councillors of not having risk of personal liability is having acted in good faith.

    So yes, a community class action, or similar, taking them to whichever tribunal or court this goes in front of IS a possible remedy.

    Karen…..in all instances of correspondence I have sent since last July I have had a reply. Including when I sent any particular letters/emails to the Premier as a cc. Acknowledgement comes from her office, and she gets the OLG to reply for her. As does Minister for Local Govt.

    And …good idea, re asking for caretaker mode, Karen and Max. Will write such myself too

    1. Interesting Gai,

      If that is correct then an interesting situation may arise. Especially given Council’s response to Cr Amos question on notice for this Thursday’s meeting about the peer review. Namely;

      “The independent peer review reports are included in this business paper. The peer review of Council’s Long Term Financial Plan relates to the plan used for the completion of the Concept Business Case and therefore does not include subsequent events.” (My emphasis).

      If you are correct and Councillors do have a statutory and fiduciary obligation under the Local Government Act (1993) to carry out their responsibilities and duties in Good Faith then would not a vote to carry on with the CCC based on probably now out of date incomplete and resultingly potentially inaccurate financial assumptions in the peer review potentially open up Councillors, and possibly others such as the General Manager, to personal individual financial liability such as a class action or similar?

  9. As far as I can ascertain the NSW Department of Planning has not passed the Development Application so all work should be halted until this is passed.
    If the Mayor is so concerned about the loss of jobs the Council should agree to constructing another level on the existing Council Chambers.
    I am deeply concerned that The Council will only operate with only eight councillors until September 2021 and the Mayor will continue to exercise her casting vote. This is hardly democratic.

  10. Only a lawyer could better answer these legal questions, and this could be of no substance, however questions do arise not only for Councillors’ individual liability [not my intention behind the comment] but for the Council as an entity itself. For instance, if the Council could, repeat could, be considered liable for not acting in good faith, or indeed unconscionable or reckless decision-making, is it also possible then that some sort of stop order could be placed to halt development?

    Thus, if Council finds itself on shaky legal ground is it possible that the whole debacle could be stopped without further harm to the purse, the public and the Councillors themselves?

    There is no question, though, that a lawyer in deciding there is a case here would have the name of their firm shunted onto the national stage, nor a question that a firm would welcome that.

      1. Three very extraordinary critical factors are definitely present:

        1. a mass public body doesn’t want the development;
        2. those people are already demonstrably mobilised;
        3. economic conditions are highly unusual and wildly uncertain.

        Just add a Council decision to go ahead with it regardless. Then add that lawyer.

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