Motions for pause on Gordon Street and a poll of citizens before Council this Thursday evening

Two Coffs Harbour City Council Councillors have moved motions asking for a pause and a scientific community poll on the proposed new Cultural Centre and Council Chambers. The motions have been moved by Councillors Swan and Amos are to be presented and debated this Thursday 14 November.

Citizens are urged to attend.

Councillor Swan (below) has given notice of her intention to move the following:

Deputy Mayor, Councillor Tegan Swan

“That council: Pause the current Cultural and Civic Space project to respond to and address ongoing community concern around the cost and inclusions of the project.

For a three-month period, council will undertake a new round of community consultation to allow for the establishment of:

1. Community expectation specifically in relationship to cultural and civic facilities required across the LGA

2. Platforms for relevant information to be communicated in more accessible and easily comprehendible mediums.

Please note: this is not stopping or ending the existing project but providing time for the community’s current desires and expectations of Coffs Harbour City Council to be established and taken into consideration in moving forward to ensure that the facilities that are created are what our community wants now and into the future.

Following this period, the new information will be measured against the existing parameters of the project to determine any changes which may or may not need to be undertaken before the project continues to proceed.

The associated costs resulting from these actions are to be taken from the Communication and Marketing budget.”

Rationale: “Acknowledging that the current level of information available and community consultation to date has been undertaken in line with present requirements and ticks all boxes, the community, have, in numerous ways, made their sentiments clear regarding this project. As community leaders it is our obligation to listen and respond accordingly.

The ways communities interact, engage and respond is changing. This project has provided many learning opportunities for Coffs Harbour City Council Councillors and staff.

We currently have an engaged community and the opportunity to embrace and listen to that or to push on and further fracture the relationship and public perception of CHCC.

By showing respect for the community and allowing further input into this project we will create the best outcome. Regardless of what has happened in the past, this is the reality now and it is our responsibility to be responsive to that.

By taking the time to establish current expectations, not only regarding cultural and civic facilities but also of levels of service and infrastructure expectations we will be in a better position to serve and provide for the community in a way that allows for a culture of communication and co-operation between council and the wider community.

While this project is significant and important, continuing to push forward without acknowledging community concerns will only intensify mistrust and resistance to future council projects. We have the opportunity to get this right now. Not only for this project but for all future projects as well.”

Councillor Amos (below) has given notice of his intention to move the following:

Councillor Paul Amos

“Coffs Harbour Council commission a qualified, independent consultant to undertake a poll/survey relating to community satisfaction around the evolution and progression of the Coffs Harbour Cultural and Civic Space project.

That poll is to be a targeted, demographically sound, random, telephone poll that samples enrolled voters over 18 years of age. The poll should have a confidence level of 99% with (+- variance of 5%.) and the results presented to councillors as soon as completed, prior to being formally presented to council at the first meeting of 2020.The questions to be included are:Do you support larger Art Gallery facilities? Do you support larger Library facilities?

Do you support upgraded council office facilities?

Are you aware of what is proposed in the Civic and Cultural Space project?

Do you support the Civic and Cultural Space project as proposed?

If not, why not and what changes could be made to gain your support?

When did you become aware of the functions that would be provided within the Civic and Cultural Space building …greater than one year ago, six months ago, only recently, still don’t know?

What is the best way to notify you in the future about any major Council projects occurring with community input:

1. Information table in city centre

2. Mail

3. Email

4. Phone

5. Social media

6. Local media outlets (such as Advocate newspaper)Funding is to come from the current budget of the Cultural and Civic Space project.

Rationale: “The NSW Local Governments Act 1993 No 30 states:

“14. Council Polls. A council may take a poll of electors for its information and guidance on any matter”

There have been concerns around how well the community have been informed and consulted with on this matter. An extensive community education campaign has recently been actioned by council.

It is now timely to gauge the community response to this program and the proposed “Civic Space” project in general.No matter where you sit on the cultural centre, it is clear that it has divided the community and this has at least in some part been due to people feeling like they didn’t have a voice in shaping this major infrastructure decision.

In order to avoid such a divide in the future, the Council needs to learn any lessons it can from this. A mature and responsible local government organisation such as our own should be able to accept some responsibility, reflect on what went wrong and make sure we do better in the future.

Proponents of the new council facility state that the opposition is that of a vocal minority. If this is indeed the case, this should be demonstrated, and we should know in future projects, how we can best gain insights from a representative majority.”

The full agenda for this Council meeting can be found here;