Local, Opinion/Comment

‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth’. Is that what Coffs Council is doing?

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By Cob.

Most people know the old saying not to look a gift horse in the mouth. This is a little piece on one such group that seems to be doing just exactly that.

Our story starts forty odd years ago; in an area where once chooks and a few cattle outnumbered the people. An old farmer died and in his will he set up a trust to gift his property to the youth of the area. One organisation debated the offer of the land for some time and then decided to impose their conditions on the trust; in short they did not fancy the idea of a 99 year lease. The trust ignored them and a new group was found.

To the new group this was an opportunity; one too good to refuse. They drew up some plans and went ahead. They built and made some plans, built again and made even more plans. It started forty years ago but today it has a theme park, water attractions, training facilities, ovals and courts. There is a motel and a conference centre next to the gifted land. It spawned more development and has a staggering turnover in visitors each year. There is no plan in sight to end the arrangement; it just keeps growing and so too do the other leisure spots close by.

It is of course the Penrith Panthers Leisure Park. They did not ‘look the gift horse in the mouth’. They did not set out to impose their will on those with the “tin of money”.   No, they took what was on offer and they used it to their advantage.

Perhaps the Councillors on Coffs Harbour City Council should use this as a case study, particularly in relation to the Joint Organisation (JO)  proposal Council considered for the umpteenth time at its last meeting on Thursday 22 March and where they said ‘yes, sort of’ to it.  In three years Councillors, both current and past, have done very little of substance in relation to this proposal.

Prevarication has been ‘the order of the day’.  The latest ‘decision’ means they have just rehashed the proposal put to them to “merge” with three neighbouring councils. It is not a super council as we are constantly told by the local media; it is a JO.  Big difference.

When the JO was first mooted our Council sacrificed $1 million on offer from the “donor”, the NSW Government, so as to push ahead with the proposal. Now they want to impose their conditions on those with the so-called  “tin of money”.  They wish to restrict the membership of their group to those “to best serve the interests of the community”.  So how is this different from what the “tin of money” wants?

Does our Council fear Port Macquarie? Or is it Kempsey? Do they not know there is strength in numbers? Why be so territorial? There is very little, or even nothing, to be gained from this vague ‘decision’. It does not stack up. Coastal Works ignored such boundaries because it was convenient; they ‘invaded’ the territory of other councils. The world did not end; so why will it happen if there are six councils in the new group?

The Coffs Harbour City Councillors seem to be of the view they are the key players in any such grouping. But this may well not be the case.

Based on our Council’s record, far from being the key player, they may well be the ‘weakest link’. Other Councils may not be envious of our Council’s capacity to manage funds. Compared to others their record is not exactly ‘crash hot’.

Continuous special rate increases were not sought by Kempsey, Nambucca or Port Macquarie. Curiously, it might just be, they will want a fair share out of the “tin of money” in the interests of their community.

The logic used by Coffs Harbour City Councillors is “rubbery” to say the least. Those with the “tin of money,” the NSW government,  will, more than likely, deal with those who support their view. And where will that get us?

Sorry I forgot they will just deal with “all the government agencies of health, education and all those others that want to deal with a dozen JOs”.  Heaven help us if this is the standard of comment from Councillors.  It does not even seem to be true. Does a council suggest the building of a school?

No, it is not’ low risk’. It is no risk at all. Think back to the example at the start. The donor with the “tin of money” went elsewhere.  It is no risk at all.  For the donor that is!

So I guess in another 40 years our Council will still be debating the issue ‘in the interests of the community’. They will mourn the day they ‘looked a gift horse in the mouth’. It is after all up to them to seize the opportunity; to exploit the advantages for the local residents. They will never do it if all they do is try to impose their will on the holder of the  “tin of money”. It just shows what they are focused on.  It is not the local residents. Not in this instance.

Note: The reference to the “tin of money” and others in this story comes from a Coffs Coast Advocate story on page 6 of the Saturday 24 March 2018 hard copy edition – story headed; “It’s a yes for super council”


  1. Outstanding! Coffs council is hopeless and in any other circumstances would go out of business. Can’t think why I’m moving out.

  2. Yep, completely inane is this one from the Coffs Council.

    Do they actually think that this doesn’t come across as appearing to be offensive to the other Councils who were to be included in the Joint Organisation? Talk about rampant hubris and arrogance.

  3. Someone in earlier thread – I’m not sure if cheekily or as a result of their total naivety – just couldn’t believe that Coffs Council would want to dominate a “super council” or JO.


  4. Grant - Editor

    I’m pretty sure it was a ‘tongue in cheek’ comment Andrew 😉

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