At the end of what has been a busy week in relation to the proposed new Civic Centre and Council Chambers the Coffs Coast Outlook takes some time out to offer some editorial opinions on some key points.
“We’re ticking all the boxes”
Mayor Knight has been in the local media this week both on TV and in her column on page 23 of yesterday’s Advocate saying how confident she was the Minister of Local Government, Shelly Hancock, understood that the Coffs Harbour City Council had ‘ticked all the boxes’.
Having re-read Minister Hancock’s letter to the Clerk of The Legislative Assembly about the petition several times now it is hard not to disagree with one of Outlook’s many comments posters who said;
“in bureaucratic, between the lines speak in the last three paragraphs on page one of her letter the Minister in my opinion is in effect saying ‘Council have done the absolute minimum it had to do and as such I can’t do anything. But really it should take a breather and involve in more depth , and listen to, its citizens.‘
If I were the four Councillors who voted for this and CHCC Senior Administration I would not take this as a glowing endorsement. It strikes me as being anything but”.
The words of local MP Gurmesh Singh in his speech when presenting the petition need to be born in mind by Council too when he said;
” community members opposed to the project are not a ‘noisy minority’…… the petition asks for a pause at this point; I think that would be beneficial to bring the community together. It is not a step down or a step back. The petition is not asking for the project to stop and be thrown out. It is simply asking for a pause. The community is engaged. I hope that the council can come together again and arrive at a solution that everybody is happy with.”
The Opposition spokesperson on Local Government, Greg Warren, said;
” The community is understandably concerned about the cost implications of the development. The community should be engaged with and consulted, and I will leave that in the hands of the elected representatives.”
What does this mean?
All this means State government and opposition figures believe Council needs to do more by way of involving a community that is clearly stating it is concerned about the proposed Civic Centre and new Council Chambers as it stands.
‘Ticking the boxes’ is perceived by many as saying ‘we’ve done the minimum we have had to do.’ Many in the community believe that is not anywhere near good enough for a project as big and as culturally and financially important as this one is.
‘Ticking boxes’ alone does not ‘cut the mustard’ for many in the community.
Heart of Coffs mailings
In her Advocate column yesterday the Mayor said she had a ‘lot of wonderful feedback about the open letterbox done to try and deal with some of the disinformation doing the rounds’ about the project.
Outlook has no doubt some people have indeed given the Mayor positive feedback.
From our community soundings though the more common response is to wonder about the cost and value of it all and to quickly add it to the mounting waste disposal problems council is facing.
These people are hardly likely to go out of their way to give the Mayor feedback on what appears to them to be an expensive glossy PR exercise.
Selling assets at a time of declining incomes is not great strategy
During the week Outlook published two articles by Dr Micheal Keating a former Head of the Departments of Prime Minister & Cabinet, Finance, and Employment & Industrial Relations. As expected the readership of these was far less than local stories, especially those pertining to Gordon Street.
Yet within Dr Keating’s two articles were macro findings that were directly applicable to the micro economy and specifically to what Council is proposing to do.
World wide because of historically low interest rates asset prices are ballooning while conversely incomes, whether they be wages or rentals, are either stagnant or declining.
Council’s ‘plan’ for Gordon Street requires the sale of four publicly-owned assets which it proposes to sell possibly at a 10% discount at a time of climbing asset values.
It will then need to finance and cover at least approximately $45m in loans with a building that has not got a major income generator, namely an Entertainment Centre, something that seems to have been ‘farmed out’ to the private sector by Council in spite of past Mayoral ‘promises and priorities’. All this in a time when incomes are declining.
In effect Council will have sold its assets for a sizeable debt and a building that has no income generator worthy of the name.
As we have argued here for at least two years this is not good economic sense. As Dr Keating points out it is an issue that has probably also got worse recently.
So, as has long been the case, it comes down to a matter of trust.
Who do you trust here in this instance, a former Head of the Departments of Prime Minister & Cabinet, Finance, and Employment & Industrial Relations?
Or your Council?
The articles by Dr Keating (pictured left) can be found at the following two links; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/monetary-policy-is-on-its-last-legs/ and https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/32969-2/