Andrew Fraser chairs the meeting on Thursday night.
Andrew Fraser chairs the meeting on Thursday night. Trevor Veale

BIG TURNOUT: A Civic Space at the right price and location

A LARGE showing of Coffs Harbour ratepayers has this evening turned out in opposition to Coffs Harbour City Council's proposed $76.5 million Cultural and Civic Space development.

An estimated crowd of around 400-500 people attended the meeting called by former Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser in the Norm Jordan Pavilion.

Joining Mr Fraser as speakers were Peter Wardman, Cr Keith Rhoades and Bachrach Naumburger Group CEO Steve Gooley.   

To loud applause, the panel agreed that Coffs Harbour was in need of improved arts and cultural facilities, but the major factor in their opposition was the cost to the city. 

"We know our art gallery is not as good as what it could be, we know the library is not as good as what it could be, but at the end of the day what's been proposed to us by half of the council is I believe unaffordable," Mr Fraser said.

Andrew Fraser, chairs meeting at Norm Jordan Pavilion to raise issues about councils proposed cultural and civic space. 18 July 2019
Thursday night's meeting chaired by Andrew Fraser against the cultural and civic space development. Trevor Veale

"Over the last eight years every rate increase that the Coffs Harbour City Council has applied for has been granted by IPART and as a result over the last five years our rates have increased by 23.5%. 

Mr Fraser said he was fearful if the costs blew out on this major development, ratepayers would inevitably be left to carry the cost, through future rate increases.  

Do you support the $76.5 million Cultural and Civic Space development?

This poll ended on 25 July 2019.

Current Results

Yes Coffs needs improved cultural and arts facilities, but not at that cost

14%

Yes this development will revolutionise Coffs Harbour in arts and culture build it now

19%

No other alternatives must be sought for this facility

34%

No this is unnecessary use of ratepayers funds

31%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

He detailed how as the local member he met with council's executive where the plan was proposed to him as a fait accompli.

"I was basically told I was a dinosaur because I proposed that we could do this in a cost neutral way, there is more than one option on the table, Keith (Rhoades) put an option on the table the other night at council, I agreed with part of it but not all of it." 

"What I am calling for is for us as a community to send the message to council that we want all options fully costed put on the table and brought back to the ratepayers of Coffs Harbour," Mr Fraser said to loud applause.

Previously and again tonight, Mr Fraser outlined his call for council to sell the land that it owns, build an additional storey on the existing council chambers and move the art gallery to City Hill near the Bunker Cartoon Gallery, which is set to undergo major renovation. 

That would then allow the library to be extended into the existing art gallery space in Rigby House. 

Mr Fraser estimated the proposed Civic Space development in Gordon St would comprise 3700 square metres of office space, when currently council staff occupy 4200 square metres.

Coffs Harbour City Council has today released the design for the $76.5 million Civic and Cultural Centre.
The proposed $76.5 million Cultural and Civic Space. CHCC

"This Glasshouse as I'm calling it started out at $35 million and has now gone to $75 million and if you do some simple sums on the 550 jobs we have been told it will create, if you multiply the average wage of someone working out there at $35,000 or took it on the more realistic figure of $70,000 per year you are going to get a cost in labour alone on the proposed development of between $50-million and $100 million. 

 "And yet we are being told it will only be $75 million.

"We are also told the visitations to the art gallery and library would be 400,000 people per year, that equates to 167 per hour every open day. I can guarantee you the Macquarie library in Sydney and the art gallery in the Domain don't have that sort of thoroughfare.

Mr Gooley, Mr Wardman and Cr Rhoades all were in agreeance that Coffs Harbour deserves a cultural centre of national regard, but at the right price. 

Tomorrow the rescission motion to go before Coffs Harbour City Council next Thursday will be made public online.  

Coffs Harbour City Council has today released the design for the $76.5 million Civic and Cultural Centre. The design seen from Riding Lane.
The Riding Lane aspect. CHCC