Local, Opinion/Comment

Is Council’s executive being ‘fair dinkum’ or are they playing a game of semantics?


It is Thursday 28 November 2019 and at approximately 6.00 p.m. Council are debating a motion by Cr Keith Rhoades as follows;

That all contracts relating to the Cultural & Civic Space proposed for Gordon Street Coffs Harbour in excess of the prescribed tender amount of $250K are to be determined by full council and not under delegated authority.”

By The Editor

Debate turns around whether under the NSW Local Government Act you can delegate authority on the sale of council assets.

The Acting General Manager, Andrew Beswick (pictured below), filling in for an absent GM, Steve McGrath, appeared prepared for this debate. 

Andrew Beswick was the Acting GM at the 28 November CHCC Council meeting. Photo; The Coffs Coast Advocate

In laymen’s terms he argued that our Council’s very clever General Manager was prepared for this possible argument and highlighted that in the 11 June motion that Councillors are revisiting Councillors hadn’t “delegated”. 

No, he said, in fact they had “authorised” staff to sell Council assets such as the current Chambers in Castle Street, Rigby House and the Museum.

The argument being put by Council’s executive appears to be that because the wording is different the delegation provisions, and any restrictions on them under the Act, therefore don’t apply.

So let’s just step back and consider this argument before moving onto what this behaviour may mean among other issues.

The NSW Local Government Act has an entire section in it on the ability of Councils to delegate powers.  The Act itself does not define the term ‘delegate’ however.  On the other hand authorised is defined in the Act but only in respect to who an ‘authorised person’ is under the Act. Namely;

   “ (a)  an employee of a council generally or specially authorised by the council in respect of or whose duty it is to deal with, or to act in regard to, any acts, matters or things in relation to which the expression is used, or

    (b)  a police officer.”

 The authorised person described under (a) above then has to follow the Act in relation to the powers that can be delegated.

Circular isn’t it? 

But arguably also too clever by half by the  Council Executive because the motion first passed by Council on 11 June essentially gave delegated power to authorise a delegate to execute contracts for the sale of publicly-owned assets potentially AT LESS THAN 10% OF VALUATION (which is arguably not legal under the Act) without bringing the matter back to council for approval.

Now we think the Executive’s argument is flimsy and quite frankly it has the whiff of semantic cow manure to it.  And we suspect higher legal authorities would agree, albeit in less florid terms than the ones we just used.

But heck let’s just keep it simple and check out what the dictionary has to say;

To delegate = “to give a particular job, duty, right, etc. to someone else so that they do it for you.”  https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/delegate

To authorise = “to give official permission for something to happen, or to give someone official permission to do something.” https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/authorize

What are the possible implications of this?

We reckon there is less than the depth of a cigarette paper’s difference between those two Cambridge Dictionary definitions. And we suspect that man British judges cite all the time in precedent setting judgements, the man on the Clapham Omnibus, would agree with us too.

And yet our Council Executive thinks it is OK on things like this that split votes and a split community should be further split?

So what does it tell you about how they are approaching getting the Cultural and Civic Centre going?

 Is ‘whatever it takes’ the new moral code for them?

Inevitably this leads also to these questions too;

  • Is Council’s executive being ‘fair dinkum’ or are they playing a game of semantics? And,
  • Is this the first example of this or have there been other examples too?

We’ve argued before that the answer to (b) is ‘No, it’s not the first time’.  Way back in 2017 in fact.

And then there is the whole breaking conventions on casting votes issue too – however that’s a related, but another, whole ‘can of worms’ in our opinion.

Details about Coffs Coast Outlook and its staff can be found here; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/about-us-faq/.


  1. Robert Yandell

    Keep up with your accurate reporting and insightful commentary.

  2. Just goes to further demonstrate how slippery the council executive is, who is really running this town and the contempt they have for their critics.

    • Another Christopher Pyne with his irritating voice and slippery ways. The truth will come out in the end. It’s only a matter of time.

  3. Beswick’s behaviour is almost amusing – but only “almost”. The oldest Public Service trick is to choose an obscure, insignificant point and promote it as the subject matter. Thereby ignoring and confusing the core facts. Then respond to the ‘plebs’ with condescending insolence. It’s an old relic of English Upper Class arrogance!
    Whether the sale was “authorised” or “delegated” is not the issue! The issue is; that all sales of land relating to the CCS project MUST NOW BE APPROVED BY COUNCIL. Administrative disobedience would declare WWIII.

  4. NOTHING on this earth shines brighter than the TRUTH and TRUTH always finds a way to bubble to the surface. Whilst there are lot of things on this earth for which we cannot be sure, we can certainly be sure of that singular “reality”. Janne C Lindrum

  5. Waste Warrior

    The current Council executive team would be the worst seen in Council history. Their staff don’t trust them, don’t like them and don’t respect them. They keep secrets from appointed Councillors, hide massive legal and consultancy costs and have lost the ability or never had it to engage with the public, employees & contractors.

    • Rikki Bekker

      Well said Waste Warrior.

      This current Council Executive strikes one as being consumed with their own self-importance and a misguided sense of excessive pride and self-confidence.

      One can only guess as to why this is the case because from both up close and from a distance they strike me as being so arrogant they can’t see that they are among the worst bureaucrats ever to have ‘graced’ the Castle Street Kremlin. More than a few of them come across as being hand picked, shadow Mini-Me’s of the GM and with about the same ability to think literally – i.e; none.

      The story above sums this all up to a ‘T’.

  6. I authorise voters to ‘drain the swamp’ in September 2020 – Yay!!!

    Budding candidates for council should be quizzed by voters on how they rate the executives’ performance and whether contracts should be renewed.

    • GM Steve McGrath’s Total Salary Package for year to 30/6/2019 was $360,761.00

      Total 3 Senior Staff Positions Renumeration for the year to 30/6/2019 was a Total $793,350.00

      Now they want Penthouse Offices to match their Salaries in the $76 million plus Council Admin / Library/ Art Gallery/ Museum.

      Time to call in Egg Boy ?!!

  7. Interesting the GMs salary.I seem to remember a previous GM(Mark Ferguson) who asked for a pay rise from the council and was refused. He left to become GM of Waringah council.The council then advertised the position of GM for a higher salary.Anybody else heard this ? Also speaking of bona fides/draining swamps the previous employment of our present GM .Does anybody know his track record being GM on Singleton Council?

    • John Cleese the Advocate reported this week that the ICE EPIDEMIC Usage has gone up 1000…yes 1000 %. On the Coffs Coast. Youth unemployment 23 % and rising. Huge increase in crime, domestic violence , mental illness etc etc. They are all linked up.
      If you take time to speak with the homeless they are the ones who know what is really happening in any community.
      The Skate Board Park and the abandoned Fishing club are where many deals of this evil drug ICE have been happening they told me. Youth related who are in drug/crime related gangs and it’s way out of control. They are so addicted and the drug is frying their brains. CHCC live in their bubble and never want to address these issues. That’s why they have allowed them to live in the Coffs Community Village as its out of site.
      Use Google and search Stephen Sawtell the ex GM before Stephen McGrath. Cr Keith Rhoades has a very big part in the SECRETS of the Past and present GMS.
      Use Google Search. It’s like prospecting. Keep digging and you will find the hidden treasures of Coffs Harbour City Council past history.Built on dirty money and corrupt power players.
      I enjoy reading your comments John Cleese and the way you observe CHCC.

    • Basil Fawlty

      Young / Singleton / Morrison Low. It’s all there

  8. Not as smart

    Fergi was being white anted from within, the next GM was Jeff Wright, he was liked by the staff but not by the then mayor,the nexr inline was Steven Sawtell and the last GM not liked or respected by staff (this includes indoor and outdoor staff) unless your in his little clique in my opinion.

    Thank you for the tip. I listened to those two interviewers conducted in 2013 on CHY by a young person, who I thought was very keen to see a skate park built with support by the then Editor of the Advocate Graham Singleton.
    While the interviews were overly long and very generous towards the Mayor, not so polite to Cr. Nan Cowling. The interviews alerted me to the Council Minutes and Agendas that cover the meetings from February 28th 2013 through to March 14 2013.
    It is quite interesting to refresh our memories of what took place at those meetings and the way it played out.
    Therein lies some the answers as to why City Hill has been dropped by the Council and an Entertainment Space agenda came into play for the CBD.
    At the next Council meeting (the last for 2019),see the agenda as released today.
    There is a report on Performing Art Spaces as assessed by a firm of consultants, Hawkridge Entertainment Services, engaged by Council.
    In the report, it listed a number of options both indoor and outdoor, including City Hill.
    However, for some reason it completely ignores the possibility of creating an iconic outdoor venue at the Jetty Quarry. That has the potential to rival the Colorado Red Rocks Arena.
    This has the best outdoor venue acoustics anywhere in the world according to the performers.
    Why it was not on the Hawkridge list of places to assess is a question Council should be answering.
    However, the report, while an interim one does give hope that perhaps City Hill may be back in the frame as a site to compliment the Bunker Gallery extension ?
    This would add so much to the site for future generations and give the Government food for thought if the Gordon Street impasse is to be resolved and Coffs Harbour will at last have an Entertainment Centre of its own.

    • Rob I am glad you listened to them and got something out of them. What I found interesting was that Mayor Denise Knight , Cr Bob Palmer and Cr Innes left the chamber as they declared a pecuniary interest with in the CBD Masterplan. The reason being as follows.
      1. Mayor Knight owned a unit with the CBD location.
      2. Cr Bob Palmer’s wife owned a business in CBD
      3. Cr Inness also had a Business in the CBD.

      The Skateboard Park is located at Brelsford Park.
      In Mayor Denise Knights own words in the interview that is what you do and this is why you leave the Chamber.
      This Did NOT HAPPEN with Cr Michael Adenorff at July’s Crucial Meeting. He owns 3 properties within the CBD with 1 being 300 metres from CCCC . Own and operates his Law Business and he is the Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce.
      What Mayor Denise Knight says in this interview regarding her Skate Park …she did not do in the July Meeting . Such A HYPORCRIT!!!
      Yes they are lengthy interviews . Unfortunately people are overloaded with information, time poor and therefore miss the Critical information.
      This is why the CHCC have gotten away with so much ,for so long.
      GM Steve McGrath received $360,761.00 Total Salary for year ending 2018-2019.
      The 3 Senior Staff including Andrew Beswick received a total of $793,350.00

      It’s such a joke . (Referenced from Coffs City Council 2018/2019 Annual Report Section 2 Regulatory Information).
      I AGREE WITH ANDREW FRASER statement in Sat Coffs Advocate that CHCC is ROTTEN AS A PORK CHOP.
      Trust has long gone as well as respect because of their actions and behaviour in all form of Politics in this day and age. Today’s Coffs Coast Outlook Article is proof of this.

  10. Like many here, I make an impassioned plea to the mayor and colleagues, in relation to the cultural centre to re consider your position .Aristotle said “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”I listened to a brilliant talk from a writer who explained why people must keep re adjusting the way they see things.He went on to explain why it is instructive to say why you have changed your mind .You will not be ridiculed and may be applauded.This is the sign of a good leader.The intractable position can be resolved with intelligent debate and listening to the communities concerns.

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