Local, Politics

“No to Council Chambers in Gordon Street” – Gowings

The following is a publicly available submission to the NSW Planning Department by Gowings Ltd that gives qualified support only to the proposed DA for the Civic Centre and new Council Chambers in Gordon Street.

It is published in full and has not been edited other than where emphasis has been highlighted.

Gowings owns and operates the Coffs Central building

29 October 2019

“Director

Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

GPO Box 39

SYDNEY 2001

Dear Sir/Madam,

RE: Proposed Cultural Civic Space: Nos. 23 -31 Gordon Street, Coffs Harbour

(Lot 123 DP 749233, Lot B DP 346105 and Lot 20 DP 758258),

Application Number: SSD 10300

I am writing in relation to the above project to provide our qualified support.

As you would be aware, Gowing Bros Ltd is a major property owner and investor in the City and a major stakeholder committed to the successful growth and development of the City Centre.

May I say at the outset that we congratulate Council on embarking on a project for a new art gallery, library, museum and cultural space as these will contribute significantly to the cultural diversity and vibrancy of the City Centre. We fully support Council’s concept of a place to gather, create and discover and the inclusion of the library, art gallery and museum and cultural spaces; great cities have these important cultural facilities within the very heart.

However, we object strongly to the inclusion of the proposed café and Council administration offices within the development.

There is an abundance of nearby cafes and the City would benefit from people circulating in the area and utilising the existing cafes and restaurants that have recently been established in and near the City square.

As we understand Council will be relying on the sale of their existing administration building and vacating “Rigby House”. The consequence of this will be to deliver an immediate glut of office space within the CBD and this is the last thing the CBD needs after finally getting back on its feet after decades of decline. There is currently an adequate supply of office space in the CBD as evidenced by the areas of vacant office space and limited new office space development over recent years.

Adding additional vacant office space all at once, from the vacated library, art gallery and extensive Council administration areas, to the CBD stock will undermine the growth and development of the City and Council’s endeavours to create a vibrant, robust and sustainable City. In a time where governments at all levels are seeking to reduce staff levels and introduce flexible work practices (i.e. working from home, hot desking, job share etc), it would seem to be more prudent to be consolidating the office space within the existing premises being used by Council rather than expanding to new premises.

We understand that there is considerable angst in the community over the provision of the Council administration offices within this project and we suggest an alternative to the office component would be to include a residential component in the development instead. We consider that this would have the following benefits:

  • •Extending the life of the City Centre beyond 9-5 work hours and thereby adding to the vibrancy of the City (noting that office space use is normally limited to 9am-5pm use);
  • •Providing an income source for the project through residential apartment rentals and/or sales;
  • •Helping to create a more sustainable and walkable City with people living in the heart of the City and reducing reliance on private vehicles and helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the opportunity for increased public transport patronage;
  • •Providing a use that will be in keeping with the public interest and provide Council with a positive civic leadership role;
  • •Providing a catalyst for other developers to follow and help move more quickly towards a liveable City with housing in the heart of the City;
  • •The opportunity to provide a component of affordable housing within the City to meet a growing social need;
  • •Promoting mixed use development that can make the City dynamic and help create the ‘Compact City’ Council is promoting in its Growth Strategies;
  • •Increasing the City Centre population which in turn will increase the use of the City’s facilities and services including the library, art gallery, museum and nearby swimming pool, Brelsford Park and other Council facilities and services;
  • •Avoiding creating an immediate glut of office space in the City Centre;
  • •Reducing the financial burden and risk of having to sell existing Council assets and paying for relocation costs; and
  • •Providing an opportunity to partner with a housing provider for investment.

In addition, on review of the Transport Assessment Report for the proposal, it is apparent that the likely impacts on public parking availability adjacent the development has not been adequately addressed.

While the proposal includes construction of additional basement car parking, this parking will be restricted in use to Council staff and Councillors and providing no additional capacity for visitors.

Public parking survey data included in the Parking and Transport Assessment Report shows that parking availability, particularly in the Castle Street multi-storey car park can currently exceed 85% occupancy during peak retail times.

The Castle Street multi-storey car park is currently managed by Gowings Bros Ltd under an agreement with Coffs Harbour City Council. This car park provides the main retail and commercial parking supply for the Coffs Central Shopping Centre and the core City Centre retail area. Transfer of long and short-term parking demand from the City Centre fringe, along with the increase in parking demand generated by a successful Cultural and Civic space development will have significant impact on the capacity of public parking in the City core.

In order to mitigate the impact of the proposal on accessibility of car parking in the City Centre, the development project plan and cost plan should include;

  • • Review and amendment to the existing Castle Street multi-storey car park mix of time-restrictions, including the number of unrestricted car parking bays, to provide additional short to medium term car parking in the City Centre.
  • • Funding for construction of additional levels of public car parking in the Castle Street car park as identified in the report ‘Coffs Harbour City Council Castle Street Carpark Additional Parking Deck Feasibility’.

In summary, we support the components of the project that include the library, art gallery, museum and cultural space, but object strongly to the inclusion of the café and Council offices being part of the project. (Emphasis added by Coffs Coast Outlook)

There is an alternative for the office component to be removed and replaced with a residential component that would be in keeping with the public interest and would deliver many other benefits outlined above. We have also outlined a number of actions to mitigate the impact of parking that we trust you will seriously consider.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Mulcahy

Head of Property


Coffs Coast Outlook understands that so far, as publicly recorded, there have been 524 submissions to the NSW Planning Department about the State Significant Development Application by Council for Gordon Street as follows:

1.       Public = 510 (493 against / 17 supportive)

2.       Organisation = 7 (4 against / 1 non-supportive [Gowings Bros Ltd] / 2 supportive)

3.       Public Authorities = 7 (comments), noting the RMS has raised serious issues in respect of emergency and disabled vehicle access.

21 Comments

  1. Bronwyn Scott

    Council could update their existing offices .Council take enough from ratepayers and the money is better off spent on cleaning up waterways , regenerating reserves improving public spaces .so we dont end up like central coast and with overdevelopment are heading that way . So NO.

  2. The game has changed !

  3. This is overwhelming. It’s now perfectly clear this project cannot proceed according to any measures. The Mayor of our fine city together with her General Manger should now reflect, take heed, consider their roles in this debacle and possibly consider their futures as Civic Leaders. What with dreadful video recordings of on-stage performances at waste conference openings, all respect and credibility is diminishing. It’s a most very sad state of affairs that will linger long in the minds of Coffs Harbour residents.

    All the money 💰that’s been wasted !!

  4. Our Mayor should know that Doctors are told “Do no Harm”
    The same applies to Councils “Do no Harm to Businesses”

  5. What an interesting week. Coffs Waste Conference which is held each year at Opal Cove resort and attracts over 600 international and national delegates . In 2018 Gabrielle Upton the Environmental Minister flew up from Sydney for it. Coffs Waste have filmed these conferences and created their own channel with these video recordings on You Tube for the whole world too see.
    Mayor Denise Knight gave the opening speeches and welcome to Coffs Coast.
    In 2017, 2018. & 2019.
    The 2019 speech in May only had 24 views. It was discovered and then in a few days went viral and was up to 750 views . It was then deleted.
    Now the 2018 & 2017 opening speeches have been deleted as well. My question is why???
    Is is because the CHCC , the GM or Mayor Denise Knight do not want the LGA to see our Mayor’s Performance and see the truth. If you had done nothing wrong or you have nothing to hide….then why have they been deleted and taken down from YouTube.???
    CHCC always have something to hide so it seems.

  6. Surely now is the time for an administrator to be appointed !

    • Mike, history shows that poor, ill intentioned management will collapse organisations due to their destructive nature. This will be the case with Council. The concern is how much damage will the General Manager continue to cause the whole LGA in the meantime.

      Whilst there is always that cadre of Councillors aligned to the CBD property owners or those that get their “agendas” supported, they are not the drivers behind the project. They are however, responsible for their respective roles and long may the community remember their involvement.

      I’m not a betting person, but I would wager that the mechanics behind Council’s financial standing and management are not sustainable medium term.

      • If you look at the findings of the inquiry into Port Macquarie’s Glasshouse you will see the reasons why the council was sacked and an administrator appointed. The reasons are almost mirrored by the Gordon Street fiasco insofar that Port Macquarie councillors were accused of failing to heed overwhelming community concerns that the project costs would blow out and lead to bankrupting the LGA. And the Glasshouse was built on the basis that it would provide substantial income through performing arts, whereas the proposed CCCC doesn’t even have that. Judging from the failure of the 15,000 signature petition presented to NSW Parliament to have CCCC proposal reviewed, it seems the Minister for Local Government will only step in and appoint an administrator after the financial damage is done because they don’t want to be seen to be interfering in local govt decision-making.

  7. The Coffs Harbour Waste Conference is run by a company with strong links to the Council, the company has been engaged regularly by Council for consulting services and contract tendering. They would have ownership of the videos posted on youtube and i’m sure were asked politely by Council to take down the Mayors speeches. This conference is a cash cow for them and Council and it obviously doesn’t pay to have the bad publicity. It’s very well known to be a junket for many Councils from all over Australia.

  8. Gowings is a major player in Coffs. Its stance here clearly has a business component, but that is not to say that their views are entirely self-serving and aimed at protecting their commercial profits.
    Their submission has almost certainly been framed professionally and has broad coverage of a range of issues which Denise Knight and her cohort have probably not even thought of, let alone considered.
    Three points in the submission impress me:
    1. There is acknowledgement by Gowings, of the community anger towards the plan, supported by only 4 of the 8 city Councillors, some of whom may have a vested interest, and the Mayor, who certainly has a vested interest.
    2. The effects on traffic flow and parking have been downplayed by the political faction driving the scheme. Gowings have effectively refuted the faction’s claims.
    3. The submission does more than just criticise, instead offering viable suggestions which could enhance the lives of community members, particularly those in need of housing.
    Sadly it is unlikely that this submission, if read by the Mayor and her cadre, will have any impact upon the forces which seek to exercise their power at the expense of the Coffs community.
    This farcical carry-on is now more about wielding power than it is about providing an improved community culture.

    • Julian, this is what happens when sensible people share their views. We now have two of the largest property owners in the LGA, together with approx 15,000 locals voicing their disapproval and rightly so.

      What message does that send to potential investors, business owners or residents?
      It clearly shows that Council executive is authoritarian, selective in supporting those who pay for attention or acquiesce, ignorant toward the outer suburbs, and fundamentally ill equipped for the role of public administration.

      The sooner an executive is appointed that has vision for a bigger future for Coffs’ LGA and not the just the back pocket, the sooner we can claw back ground against other destinations

  9. This project requires more ventilation with a public hearing before it proceeds one step further. The Mayor and her loyal cohort of 3 are digging themselves into an impossible position. This submission from Gowings is the sort of lateral thinking required to build a bridge that might lead to the compromise required. Let’s have more thinking outside the box. And a willingness to listen and compromise.

  10. It’s going to take a lot of work to knit this town back together once the broom has gone through. Those guilty inside the executive know who they are and if they had any common sense, they’d be sharpening their pencils and beefing up their CV’s.

  11. Mayor Denise Knight has been humiliated and complaints have been made by LGA community residents to OLG Minister Shelly Hancock Office about Mayor Denise Knights Coffs Waste Management speeches of 2017, 2018 and 2019 on the You Tube Chanel of Coffs Waste Management . These have now been deleted.
    What needs to be known is that GM Steve McGrath has allowed Mayor Denise to go off the script speeches and tell her R rated Stories at all these International and National conferences held each year at Opal Cove Resort
    . In fact GM Steve McGrath gave permission for Mayor Denise Knight to finish her story at the2018 Conference that has been deleted this week.
    Here is the GMs you tube clip on day 2 of the 2018 Waste Management Conference. This was before he handed over to Mayor Knight opening speech and welcome to Coffs Coast that has now been deleted.
    Also Minister Gabrielle Upton Minister of Environment at the same 2018 Conference.
    1. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OvpGNocXNso

    2.https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Xh11wOoTL14

  12. The following is a copy of my letter to The Advocate submitted on 23 November. I sent copies to all councillors and have received a reply from Councillor Michael Adendorff:

    “We receive our Council Rates Notice by email. I suspect that many residents do. Would it be feasible for Council to email residents seeking an answer to a single, simple question?

    It could be something like: “Do you wish Council to go ahead with the proposed administrative centre, library and art gallery in Gordon St?”

    We could reply with a simple “yes” or “no”. There would be no provision for discussion or expansion on the question. At the residents’ end, the physical process would take seconds.

    Following a scrupulous, independent audit, Council might use the data gained from this survey, to inform decisions regarding the current proposal.

    If 50% or more of the responses were in the negative, a further, similar, more detailed, but still simple survey could be conducted, again by email. It would also require strictly “yes” or “no” answers. It might contain questions such as:

    “Do you want a new building for council offices?”

    “Do you want a new art gallery?”

    “Do you want a new library?”

    “Do you want a space for performances?”

    “Do you want new facilities built in Gordon St?”

    “Do you want new facilities built at City Hill?”

    Again, data gathered from such a survey could be used in modifying the current proposal into a form which most residents would support.”

    • Great idea Julian, but this mob of [insert your own descriptor] made it very clear at the 14 November council meeting, that come hell or high water they are not going to allow any form of poll. Never before have all the stars aligned for the pro-development group quite like they have this time around. From sneaking it through the public consultation phase; having an incomplete number of councillors whereby the mayor could approve motions using her casting vote; to having a very accommodating minister for local government. They are holding this position firmly because they already know that the outcome of a poll would be a resounding NO to the CCCC proposal and all of their scheming and underhand tactics to date would all come undone.

  13. Went to the council meeting last night , honestly how did we finish up with these Donkeys .
    The only one who sounded like a Councilor was Keith Rhoades , the rest of them babbled on with rubbish and put their foot in their mouth several times , while the Mayor sat there like Wyatt Earp with her two guns ready to shoot them down .
    Now we learn that we should change the name from Coffs Harbour to SHED HARBOUR as it is seen that way by a number of our donkeys/Councillors.

  14. I’ve never experienced the sacking of a council in my LGA before, so I’ll be fascinated to observe the process and the outcomes.
    “Darkest” Knight and her serfs will be removed eventually, “a la Port Macquarie”, but at a potentially huge cost, financially and spiritually.
    Ms Knight now sees herself as wielding power, as a righteous leader defending the popular view from attack by philistines. It’s now much more about the battle than it is about the issues.
    Visually Challenged Frederick can see the writing on the wall. It would not surprise me to see some of the 15 000+ who signed the petition, and a lot more who opposed the project but didn’t sign, blockading the Gordon St site to prevent work from even commencing.
    It will cost us a lot of money, in penalties claimed by the successful tenderer, but that figure will be a lot less than the cost of proceeding.

  15. I am having nightmares about this project,imagine if the project goes ahead!!God help us all.First will be the open and clear tender process,dream on.I wonder who is already the preferred tenderer ,it must be one of the ratpack.It perhaps will be like the Great Barrier tender where there was only one tenderer for $450 mill project.The tender will be awarded with great fanfare and a front page spread including bunting on site and the mayor and the company shaking hands on the site in the Advocate, with the Mayor saying this company won the tender fairly and ticked all the boxes .With similarities to the light rail in Sydney, the long road of construction will begin( not to be confused with Belt and Road).Delays and cost variations will be a major feature of this project.The company will forensically pull apart the tender looking for omissions and variations,over looked by the incompetent CHCC,perhaps a court case.Cost blowouts will be downplayed and a positive spin will be generated by the mayor and the Advocate.The project will eventually be completed, in probably double the initial time frame , min 4 years and the cost blowouts will be double the initial “fixed” tender.I hope it is only a dream,we all know dreams dont come true.

  16. John i agree Totally .
    If we were described as ”ANGRY”before .
    We are ”Incandescent and Steaming” now

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