Local, Opinion/Comment

The history and future of City Hill, Coffs Harbour – Part 3

Last week we published Parts one and two of this story. Now we publish the third of four parts.

By Margaret Beckett

So here we are today; the need was identified back in 1987 for a cultural precinct, with space to grow. That was twenty two years ago and the need is still unfulfilled!

The Queen City of the North

With one early Council we advanced to a Government surveyed site plan, a building model and a “good news” announcement that appeared in The Coffs Coast Advocate

Then everything went quiet. WHY?  Someone knows!

Since that golden moment consecutive councils have variously tried to sell or otherwise co-opt the marvellously strategic City Hill to what best serves their ‘wants’.

All the men who had to do with getting The Hill; Councillors, Arts Council members, the Housing Commission, Federal politicians, could see its potential for Coffs Harbour .

It’s just our Council which cannot.

An unselfish vision for the benefit of our children and  growth of the district hasn’t resurfaced. Not yet the grand hope of people like Shire President Harry Bailey, (who the current library is named after) who saw Coffs Harbour as “The Queen City of the North“.  

The current library is named after the former Shire President, Harry Bailey

Not yet has there been a follow-up to the practical work of Mayor John Smith did in putting in  all the  infrastructure to service the Hill .  He saw the expansive Hilltop Art and cultural Centre as  a visitor draw-card to rival the huge array of sporting facilities.

Interestingly, it was Mayor Smith who saw the need for our sporting investment.  When the then Prime Minister, John Howard, gave regional councils $1million Mayor Smith  persuaded the Councillors to put all the money towards the  Stadium (pictured below) and to sports. He put Councillor Rhoades in charge. The success is there for all to see.

Coffs Harbour International Stadium .

However, Mayor Smith knew there had to be a balance between the physical [sport] and spiritual [art] development. Therefore, he began accumulating two Trust Funds: one ready to kick off the work on City Hill; the other to get the Bunker reinstated.

We were all winners when John Champion and Rotary took over the Bunker Trust Fund. Fund raising is in their DNA.

Mayor John Smith’s wife is still alive and in good health of mind and body. She has said how John had a substantial fund ready to start on the cultural precinct. She tried to get him to start the work but he believed the next Council would do it. His hearing was failing and he wanted to step aside.

The City Hill Trust Fund appears to have vanished into the same Black Hole that swallowed all the visionary planning!

A newspaper item in 2012 has a picture of Mayor Knight with the City Hill report stating that she thinks “The Hill is a great cultural site”.  

Sadly a newcomer to Council changed all that.


Margaret Beckett is a long time resident of Coffs Harbour and has been active in the Friends of City Hill group. The group has a strong desire for there to be a center for multi-cultural activities and a for visual and performing arts at City Hill. (Our emphasis added above)

In Part 4 the background to Council’s current attitude to City Hill and the possible future of the site is discussed. Also covered is what that means given the Coffs Harbour City Council has now announced alternative cultural center plans for Gordon Street.

Part 1 was published earlier in the week and can be found here; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/the-history-and-future-of-city-hill-coffs-harbour-part-1/

Part 2 was published on Thursday 30 May: See: https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/the-history-and-future-of-city-hill-coffs-harbour-part-2

Part 4 will be published later this week.

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