The new Cultural, Civic, Council Chambers Building – Can Coffs Harbour afford it?

Editors note: Last Thursday 13 September Councillors voted 6-2 (Councillors Amos and Rhodes voted against) to accelerate the Stage 1 design funding for the proposed Gordon Street Civic Centre.

This decision appears to have generated concern among some ratepayers.  The following letter was sent to Outlook.  It was also sent to the Coffs Coast Advocate where another of a similar vein was published online too.

“Dear Editor

Like many culturally and socially minded residents of Coffs Harbour, I am deeply troubled by Council’s aim to expedite the Cultural & Civic Space project in the rapid way it intends.  I therefore feel compelled to express my own and some other peoples’ concerns.

Firstly, it would appear the Gordon Street project has taken on new objectives and a different order of magnitude.  Proposed monies have now escalated way beyond what the City and its rate payers can truly justify.  What was originally suggested was a building containing a new and spacious art gallery, new library or knowledge centre and a home for the museum.  What’s now being revealed is an agenda for new Council Chambers and offices to accommodate Council staff.

Why therefore did this Council not go to the people in the first place and honestly declare that Coffs Harbour needs new Council buildings..!

It seems entirely inappropriate that new Council chamber and offices should come disguised as long wanted Cultural & Civic amenities.

$76 Million is a lot of money without really knowing where it’s coming from.  Would this sum be the limit of expenditure or will it blowout just like so many other public and government-based projects..?

I think what really needs to be answered before any green button is pressed for this project is;

Have the most stringent independent economic studies been performed?

If so by whom or what organisation?

Since there will be substantial impact on the financial future of our city, it’s vitally important for an organisation such as Deloitte, Ernst & Young or KPMG to perform rigorous studies.  At least, we as stakeholders would want to know the loan payback terms and the rate of return for every dollar invested.  Without truly having meaningful economic feasibility studies performed, we potentially will be anchoring ourselves to debt.  The Glasshouse at Port Macquarie is a prime example of bad decision-making where the local council was pushed over the financial precipice with unimaginable blowouts and huge ongoing running and maintenance costs.

One can safely predict that a new Cultural & Civic Centre in town will not draw the visitor numbers envisioned.  Any initial increase in yield will die off as curiosity wains and as other competing venues in other cities begin to impact.  Not to mention traffic issues.  Let’s all be very clear about this, this is not a drawcard and not something we can all be very proud of.  We can do better than this..!

It’s understood that some Councillors and staff took a recent trip to Melbourne to see what the City of Geelong built.  What should be said about this is; Geelong is a wealthy largely populated suburb of Melbourne with a far greater sophisticated community at higher socio-economic levels.  It neighbours the sea front which generates visitor volume.  Therefore what works for Geelong bares no relationship to Coffs Harbour and is not like comparing apples with apples.

As a proponent of cultural activities, I believe we should re-examine the short-term motives behind this expensive venture and look instead to the future by considering something of a far more iconic character and in particular away from the confined space of the City.

At the end of the day, all Councillors must be able to put their hand on their heart and believe they make right decisions in the very best interests of the community and feel accountable.  It will be their legacy and how they’ll be remembered.

Thank You


Grenville Duce.”



3 thoughts on “The new Cultural, Civic, Council Chambers Building – Can Coffs Harbour afford it?

  1. When we have a rain event our driveway floods and is covered in mud. I have spent numerous hours trying to divert the flow. After 33 years I look at it as exercise….up until now…. We pay approimately $4900p.a. in rates for a 485m2 block with no curb and guttering and no ocean views. Am I being selfish or should our rates be used to assist the ratepayer in these situations or build an eddiface which is not enhanced by the type of infrastructure that appeals to locals and visitors such as parks, public gym equipment, dog friendly areas, free camping areas etc.?
    Have council members taken a great interest in areas such as Port Macquarie and the lack of foresight with the Glasshouse? However, their other infrastructure is great, roads, parks,etc. Also I suggest the council sends representatives along the Murray river and take note of the restoration that is taking place there. In hindsight wouldn’t have been great to have kept the civic centre? Would have not only looked terrific but solved some organisational issues.
    Thanks for your time and let’s hope that future councils will be able to put the ratepayers ahead of personal agendas.

    1. Agree Greg. I don’t believe there are many who think the Mayor, Council and its executive have any interest our community.

      If they cannot understand losing a net $1million on the sale of the museum property in order to gain $700,000 in cash to contribute to the new council building in Gordon Street, they are a LOST cause. I suspect this is what Cr Adendorf meant suggested Council was in a sound financial position.

      It’s this mentality that underlies the ignorance being demonstrated.

      1. Good points Chris.

        I take it you are referring to the Museum? If this is indeed the case then how much trust can we put on the figures they are bandying about for the other buildings?

        If you are referring to the Museum sale then making a net loss on the Museum to fund this building in Gordon Street suggests two things possibly at work here. Financial ineptitude and/or hidden agendas at work.

        The question in relation to the latter is ‘for who?’

        And are the valuations of all these properties public knowledge or is Council hiding behind so-called ‘commercial in confidence’ nonsense yet again?

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