Coffs Coast Business

“How will this project bring night life to the CBD?”

For many people the proposed Civic and Cultural Space has become a very emotive topic.

By Ann Leonard

For some we are at a point of seeing a long held dream of a standalone Multipurpose Cultural Precinct being overshadowed by a grand new council administration building. 

Ann Leonard

For others, those employed by council and their supporters, it is the culmination of several year’s work.

We are all on the same page.  We all want progressive library, gallery and state of the art performing arts facilities which will see us through the coming decades.  If we make the right decisions this is what we will have.

However, it is not emotion that should decide the fate of this project but rather the many practical considerations which seem to have been glossed over or not addressed at all. Regardless of what the outcome is, this journey has brought with it a great deal of knowledge and this knowledge can only enable us to produce the best possible circumstance for all involved.

In the last week, the broader community has been confronted by the knowledge the proposed civic and cultural space will include an extensive new Council administrative component which will occupy the top three floors and possibly, given the “flexibility” of the current plan, more. Particularly as the proposal delivers less space to council than it currently occupies.

A great deal of money has already been spent. This is of concern to many they are not getting what they thought we had signed up for.

According to one local poll 70% of the community favours the creation of appropriate cultural facilities. Of that 70% less than one third are happy with the current proposal equating to 80% of those who participated in the poll. 

At last week’s public meeting, only two raised their hands in support of the proposal in an audience in excess of 400 people.  Unless council is prepared to run roughshod over the population on this issue and, in consideration of a council election coming up next year, pause for thought is probably a good option for everyone.

On a practical note, my mind keeps coming back to the following:

Where is the business case supporting the release of four council owned properties onto the market?

What are we going to do with all the extra commercial floorspace that will be foisted onto the CBD with it’s plethora of vacant retail and commercial office space?

What future is envisaged for the many privately owned and underdeveloped properties and vacant land holdings? Should we not grow into these existing assets first?

Council itself has options for growth in its existing buildings and could have more, once we move forward with new cultural facilities which the majority of the population wants.

Given that the proposed civic and cultural project requires the sale of these four properties to move forward does council have in place negotiations which will enable them to do so? If not is it expedient for council to spend any more of the ratepayer’s money on the project until there is any surety that it will sell these properties?

The main argument for the current proposal it seems, is the revitalisation of the CBD. It is obvious to many, given the continued approval of developments beyond the CBD there has been a bleed of commercial and government institutions to other areas over the last 40 years.

Revitalisation projects of which there have been many have not worked. Should we accept this fait accompli and work with what we have?

With the changes in society over those decades the role of these precincts is changing and council is right to encourage the residential development to address this. 

Given all operations of the proposed civic and cultural space are undertaken during business hours how will this project bring a night life to the CBD?

A natural growth in this area has taken place in both the Jetty Precinct and Sawtell with no outside interventions.  Is there something to be learned from this?

Has all the homework really been done on this?

Are we to be held to ransom over the development of a performing arts space by the Cex if we do not progress with the inclusion of $40 million for new council chambers in the proposal?

We have too many loose ends and council owes it to the community whose assets are at stake here to ensure we have covered all our bases.


The above is a slightly edited version of the speech given in support of the recission motion to Council by Ann on 25 July last. Coffs Coast Outlook offers to publish all speeches for and against the recission motion and has alread published one in support of the motion by Jan Lindrum. See:


  1. robert walter yandell

    Perfect common sense.
    There is no other reality unless there are hidden agendas!!
    “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” R v Sussex Justices, ex party McCarthy (1924 1KB 256) or (1923 All ER Rep 233)
    In this instance Justice is not perceived or seen to be done.

  2. Well said, Ann..
    A $76.522 million UN-COSTED development.
    A defective motion; motion lacking critical detail.
    An absence of genuine empirical evidence.
    A lack of TRANSPARENCY.
    An Executive failing to present comparable information to enable a rational judgment on critical issues.
    A Mayor using her casting vote; breaching a core principle of the Westminster system and trouncing democracy.
    A Councillor failing to declare a “significant” pecuniary interest and admitting to having discussions with an
    undisclosed party in relation to the sale of a publicly-owned asset.
    A curious “ANXIOUSNESS” to sell-off the farm!
    An overwhelming majority saying: “Hold on. Take a breather. Let’s do some thinking.”
    You are 100% correct Robert, “in this instance, Justice is not perceived or seen to be done.”
    Thinking is definitely required.
    If one can construct an 8-level 5-star hotel with convention and spa facilities for $44 million dollars,
    the UN-COSTED $76.522 million for a citadel in a cramped and congested space beggars belief!!!!

    Janne C Lindrum

  3. Prarire Rose

    I suspect deals have already been done with the likes of Cex or similar? And all before a decision and a proper tendering process?

    A certain song by AC DC comes to mind

  4. Well written Ann Leonard.
    Land can never be replaced and this is why it appreciates in value$$$..As we no..buildings depreciate.

    Here we have a GM and Mayor selling off 4″ Bluechip Assets” which are owned by ratepayers…too spend an obscene amount of money $100 million plus ( including upgrading road works for Gordon St) on a glass building Crammed into small block …built around a Fig Tree ….over looking a dirty,filthy car park with continual carbon monoxide fumes . In winter it is cold and bleak!!!

    At the end of the day …it’s all about $$$$ Power, Greed & Corruption.

    GOWINGS being a huge investor in Coffs Harbour CBD and buying the Jetty Forestry building site …have put Moonee Beach shopping centre on the market and seeking expressions of interest.
    It was sold for $33 million originally…but GOWINGS bought it in a fire sale for half price at $ 16 million.
    It makes me ask the question…are Gowing raising capital too perhaps invest more $$$_ into the CBD too purchase the Council Chamber & Rigby House???
    Or could it be the C.ex ??? The major CBD landholder that will be building our Entertainment Centre and Accommodation( that will need more ugly Car parking ) Do they have their eyes on these valuable site for their expansion growth???
    I have heard whispers ….but do not have evidence …but as far has having faith & TRUST in the Coffs Harbour City Council, GM, Mayor Denise Knight ,Cr Michael Aidenorff, Cr George Cecatto & Cr Sally Townley …..not an ounce !!!

    “Insider Trading” in my eyes! It is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together they need all the pieces too come together for their ACTIVATION of the CBD
    Masterplan. The ACE CARD being the building of the $ 100 million dollar plus building.Developers have insisted on this too be built before they will invest. All part of closed Confidential meetings that have gone on for a long time now.

    The Casting Vote …like the Wicked Witches Wand was used….the interview the following morning after the 8th of August on FM 105 showed how Much ARROGANCE Knight Mayor has….please I would like you All too listen too this …and make your own judgement.
    Knight Mayor believes the Majority wanted it and a small amount of vocal people ( including myself) are the Minority. Knight Mayor also refuses too look at Social Media comments as we are all nasty …. ( I think we are more Frustrated ….as we have not been heard and listened too).
    Knight Mayor is in Denial … Time too fly away on that Broomstick for that Cancelled Holiday ….before the Administrators & ICAC come too town to investigate what has gone down!

    Regards Max

    • I have done it again. Got Knight Imprinted on my brain!! It’s Max Smart …not Max Knight…that casting vote has put a ” Knight” spell inside my brain. 😄

  5. Jenny Cooper

    I agree that this council, welln4 of them, are not listening to ratepayers. The CBD has been dying for a long time, as soon as thePlaza opened, nothing will improve the CBD. The monet pit Gordon St will not help, in fact it will worsen things for shop owners..even less,s near impossible now. The Adendorff thing is totally wrong, he had no right to vote and Knight and GM knew it Councillors Rhoades, Amos Swan and Arkan may as stay home for council voting matters,,because Knight and her 3 buddies will always vote the same and if 4 all Knight will decide,,we have no hope As for the Cex they don,t want us to have an entertainment centre..they would lose a fortune and the rumour council builders will be a CEX motel is wrong..the big winner here will be bed with council bedtime. I,m disgusted with Knights plan to put council offices in any new build they don’t need to, there is no income from them and a new build will get no government funding with them. This lot is corrupt, they,re bullies, undemocratic and do too much behind the scenes deals

    • Maxwell Smarter

      This isn’t all about revitalizing any c b d.
      Building close to a shopping center with infrastructure in place is a win for the council and the ones who use the library.
      Imagine building a library and other things at the jetty or city hill. Cost would blow out to buggery. It is critical that council build a library close to the c b d and bus stops parking etc.
      Do you have children and grandchildren??? If you do and and you hadve half a brain – I’m sure most people who write on this blog don’t- you would want better educational facilities for them.
      What do you want. All the kids of the LGA to finish up on drugs and hanging around park beach plaza, toormina shopping center and the cbd like they do now
      Get the kids educated. Get the kids into libraries.

      We need a new, modern and properly sized library. Anyone who says we don’t and says people don’t use libraries are pure dumb.

      For the record. I Don’t support new council chambers being built in Gordon street.

      • Maxwell Smarter I like you… do not support new council chambers being built in Gordon St either. We seem to be in the Majority Group. I am in agreeance about improving the Library and Art Gallery. As a regular user of libraries and using Libraries Australia wide they certainly have an important place in Society. My most favourite library is the recently built Award winning which was built at a cost of $60 million . The web site has a virtual tour & I used it daily for 4 months after it was built. It has a large piece of land that it was built on…which I feel personally would be suit City Hill and become a landmark & Gateway too our City. Plenty of parking and bus stops etc.
        I agree with you about our youth problem with the Drug Ice Epidemic and the high unemployment on the Coffs Coast. This is causing so much crime as the media reports on a daily basis. It’s known as ICE Harbour.
        I am opposed too the Cost of $100 million plus..and the location. I am a City Hill supporter.
        What I like about the Coffs Coast Outlook is they allow me too express myself with ” Freedom of Speech” …where other media platforms delete or edit and …show bias.. …especially to the hand that feeds them. Eg Coffs City Council.

        Respectfully Max Smart 🙂

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