How does the Coffs Harbour City Council compare with ‘similar’ NSW councils?

Back on October 1 we published a story titled ‘Does the Coffs City Council have healthy financials’? by Rob Steurmann. See; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/does-the-coffs-city-council-have-healthy-financials/

This is the second part of that article and it is based on information from from a data base of details released to the public on Tuesday 24 September this year by the Office of Local Government (OLG).

By Rob Steurmann

Coffs Harbour City Council is one of seven councils classified by the Office of Local Government (OLG) as part of Group 5 for comparison purposes. Other councils in group 5 include Wollongong (W), Shoalhaven (S), Mid North Coast (MNC), Port Macquarie Hastings (PMH), Newcastle (N) and Lake Macquarie (LM).

These areas are deemed by OLG to be similar in many respects and suitable for comparison.

For some time OLG has been trying to get a realistic way to measure performance of the council across the state.  As part of a long term plan OLG introduced a set of ratios to be used to rate the councils. 

In September 2019 it released a data base of information to permit residents to compare their council to like councils (linked above in the introduction to this story).  

The tables below are a snapshot of some of the findings.

Before looking at the tables there are some major facts to consider though.

  • Unemployment in our Local Government Area (LGA) is 8.1% (state average 5.6%). Youth unemployment is the second highest in Australia. See; https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/5934244/one-in-four-of-our-young-people-are-unemployed/
  • Average income per (adult) resident in our LGA is $46,577
  • On the socio-economic barometer our LGA came in 61st from the bottom (128).
  • The claim we are a community with a high percent of people over 60 is not necessarily true.  Our LGA at 27.7% has nowhere near the highest proportion of older residents.
Youth unemployment hotspots across Australia 2019

The OLG information is presented in a revised format below to allow easier comparison across the group.   It is set out in a series of related areas;

  • Operating result 2017/ 2018
  • Population – and ratio of councillor to resident
  • Socio factors – average income, unemployment level and % of residents over 60
  • Rates (on average) paid over the last three years and includes the domestic waste charges
  • Sources of income – grants and contributions broken up to show operating and capital components, and the balance called own funding by the OLG.
  • Some expense items – borrowing expenses, backlog in infra structure, expenses of Councillors and the GM salary.

The quoted figures are from the OLG data and are presented in order that readers can determine an opinion free from external comment.

Operating Result 2017/18 Coffs -Harbour Wollon- gong Shoal-haven Mid- Coast Port MH Newc-astle Lake Macq Tweed Port Stephens Group 5 aver State aver
figures are in 000s 5,579 7,681 17,875 4,530 7,544 5,075 12,876 27,780 see note 9567 n/a-

Note;  These figures reveal nearly every council in group 5 runs at a profit and in Coffs Harbour this differs from the figure published in the 2017/ 2018 accounts (Loss of $383,000).  Port Stephens result is a negative $93.00 for the year.

Demographics Coffs -Harbour Wollon- gong Shoal-haven Mid- Coast Port MH Newc-astle Lake Macq Tweed Port Stephens Group 5 aver State aver
population 75,503 213132 103012 92462 81404 162358 203376 94857 71736 ***
average income in $ 46577 59856 47246 45338 49336 58859 57506 48609 53643 53053
unemployment level % 8.1 4.6 9.4 5 3.3 5.9 5.5 4.4 5.6 5.5 5.6
60 and over % 27.7 25.5 33.5 37.9 34 20.6 26.3 31.9 29.4 27.8 21.0

 ***Note: Maitland has not been included – later figures are for councils listed

Socio-economic Coffs -Harbour Wollon- gong Shoal-haven Mid- Coast Port MH Newc-astle Lake Macq Tweed Port Stephens Group 5 aver State aver
socio-economic place (rated out of 128) 61 94 50 20 68 96 89 60 70 68.5 n/a
Average Rates in $ Coffs -Harbour Wollon- gong Shoal-haven Mid- Coast Port MH Newc-astle Lake Macq Tweed Port Stephen Group 5 aver State aver
year 2015/ 2016 1070 1282 933 0 1066 1135 1194 1276 946 n/a  
year 2016/ 2017 1129 1367 965 0 1074 1219 1257 1313 968 n/a  
year 2017/2018 1167 1399 1106 1328 1099 1300 1320 1330 989 1245  
% increase in last year 3.3 2.3 14.6 new council 2.3 6.7 5.1 1.3 2.1 2.1  
domestic waste (average) in $ 593 419 357 366 368 330 431 332 410 410 note

Note; Port Stephens is a few cents short of group 5 average.

Income sources Coffs -Harbour Wollon- gong Shoal-haven Mid- Coast Port MH Newc-astle Lake Macq Tweed Port Stephen Group 5 aver State aver
Total grants and contributions (g & c) % 26.9 22.9 19.2 23.6 34 14 32 28.8 22 25 31
g & c for ongoing operations % 8 10 8 14 8 6 22 15 10 n/a 11
g & c for capital works % 19 13 11 10 26 8 10 14 12 n/a 20
% of own Source 73.2 77.1 80.8 76.4 66 86 68.3 71.2 78.1 75 65
% of income from rates 45.5 61 49 53 43 51 55 45 42 n/a 45
% difference – this is user charges and other 27.7 16.1 31.8 23.4 23 35 13.3 26 36 n/a 24

Notes; OLG figures do not identify loans as a separate item – it is assumed it is under ‘other’.  Interestingly readers can gauge the extent of the loans by referring to borrowing expenses below.

There is a typing mistake in the report  – the report says % of own source income 65% but when the figures are added up it is 69% This is the real figure (100 – 31 for grants is 69)

Selected Expense items Coffs -Harbour Wollon- gong Shoal-haven Mid- Coast Port MH Newc-astle Lake Macq Tweed Port Stephen Group 5 aver State aver
Councillor ratio to resident one to 8389 16395 7924 8406 9045 12489 15644 1351 7174 10480  
Borrowing costs % 6 1 2 6 2 1 3 1.4 1 3.8  
Backlog in infrastructure 0 * 5.5 3.2 8.8 5.6 11 2.4        
Admin per capita 443 state 529.18 153.67 142.98 323.58 64.91 350.74 70.94 221 377 260.93  
Councillors fees and costs 000s 212 482 294 198 213 452 476 181 234 291  
GM salary 340154 401044 340780 417683 319238 406912 367973 335000 306767 354245  

SO WHAT DOES SOME OF THIS MEAN?

Some of these comparison figures stand up well of that there is no doubt.

Nevertheless readers might be interested to learn that Coffs Harbour City Council has told the OLG that judging by the Tables above it has * no infrastructure backlog.

No roads needed improvement at the time of their report, or bridges, or footpaths or other amenities apparently.

Everything infrastructure-wise was, and is, ‘up to scratch’?

I suspect that may raise an eye brow or two among rate payers?

No infrastructure backlog in the Coffs Harbour LGA?

The Council this week placed second in the NSW Local Government Association’s Bluett Award for being a ‘progressive’ council. In its 53 page submission council lists some admirable achievements.

See a story about it here; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/coffs-harbour-council-gets-second-in-nsw-local-government-association-award/

But some claims would also seem to be arguable too.

See Council’s 53 page Bluett Award submission here; https://www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/Your-Council/Documents/CHCC_ARB_Award201819%20(002)%20-%20FINAL.pdf

Curbside collections are no more. But Coffs Harbour ratepayers still pay othe highest waste management level in NSW Regional Council Group 5 – Photo Coffs Coast Advocate.

One omission in this award submission in my opinion was waste management as a cost to ratepayers.

Maybe that was left out because it is the highest in Group 5 at $593 P.A. per ratepayer and the next closest in the Group is $419 P.A. per ratepayer?

And that is without a bulky goods collection anymore too of course.


Rob Steurmann is a retired forensic auditor living in Coffs Harbour who previously worked for the Federal Government.

6 thoughts on “How does the Coffs Harbour City Council compare with ‘similar’ NSW councils?

  1. Its is unfortunate that with the over typing on the post it is impossible to read all the figures
    But even without the figures it’s most interesting & enlightening .
    Thank you for this report.

  2. Thanks again Rob for compiling and explaining Coffs Harbour’s finances in relation to comparable NSW councils. It seems extraordinary that CHCC administration costs per capita and domestic waste charges are double the average of other councils in Group 5, but I guess the higher costs are necessary to fund television advertising, glossy Bluett Award submissions, full page newspaper ads, glossy pamphlets and letter box drops to convince everyone of the fantastic job our progressive GM and councilors are doing.

  3. I also would like to thank Rob for his work compiling this report. Some figures are disturbing, particularly unemployment (8.1%0) and ave income, one of the lowest at $46,577pa .There seems to be an element of denial in certain circles,especially CHCC.

  4. Great work, but now to use it where it could count. I would like to know, if this report has been sent to the desk of Bluett Award evaluator? Did the local media get this for television?

  5. Thank you for this report. Youth unemployment destroys communities Have been looking to retire up that way but I will move on now. CHEER’S

  6. Thanks for that comparison with other areas. Helps put things in perspective. Also chance of a new mayor & councillors with elections in a few months having a more active, progressive outlook. Would hope to see a much more efficient Council & that starts from the top (GM)down. Not job losses, just timely outcomes. Our LGA’s future depends so much on Council’s performance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Coffs Coast Outlook - Your alternative Coffs Coast voice
+ +