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.
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.