Can the city afford that expenditure?
Letters to the 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..?
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.
Will art and culture reinvigorate the CBD?
ON Thursday council will vote to expedite releasing $2 million for Schematic Design for proposed Gordon St Civic project.
This project has doubled in cost prior to existence of plans/funding to $76.5 million.
The proposed complex is to include new council chambers/administrative offices, library, gallery, museum, retail outlet, café and end of trip facilities.
There are many questions to be asked not the least of which, does it fulfil current funding criteria by "creating a regionally iconic tourist project, enable bold, exciting and diverse arts and cultural activities, unlock tourism potential and stimulate our local economy"?
Or does it serve to bring "a host of benefits to Coffs CBD including financial benefits over a 30 year period totalling $57million, 31 jobs and $2million/per annum Gross Regional Product"? Not a good return by any calculation.
I am/always have been a supporter of developing cultural facilities in Coffs.
Personal experience and others has shows the great benefit immersion in culture and art brings to individual potential, fulfilment and growth.
However, I am vehemently opposed to this development. I do not believe it will deliver the full range of benefits socially or financially that a truly iconic arts and cultural precinct can offer.
These factors are dwarfed by the premise the project will increase visitor numbers in the CBD and enhance business and by almost 50% of the project being devoted to new council chambers and administrative offices located one of the most congested areas on the Coffs Coast.
What does this say about us?
Does it talk to the diverse cultural groups, our environment this beautiful coastline/ hinterland? Or does it speak to the vested interests of a small group of individuals?
The Friends of CHRG did a great thing last Friday night.
They brought to Coffs Harbour the original Creative Director of the Museum of Old and New Art, MONA, in Tasmania to speak to the community. Nobody can deny the impact this gallery/museum has had economically, socially and culturally on the Tasmanian community and on the rest of the worlds perception of it.
Leigh Carmichael spoke about taking risks, stepping outside the square, standing out in the crowd.
He spoke of all the things the concept we are looking to "expedite" our spending on is not. What we are doing speaks more of a concept popular in the mid 1900's.
It is interesting to note that there was no representation from Coffs Harbour City Council for Leigh Carmichael's talk and that the possibility of hearing him speak was not possible for those not attending the dinner.
Council continues to drive a project dependent on the sale of existing council buildings in Coffs Street (according to council and its consultants the sale and timing of these is high risk), borrowings of $46.5 million and unsecured government funding for a project that to all intents and purposes will not serve the needs of the broad community in the long term
Can I have more porridge please sir?
THE National Party are in danger of loosing Cowper and Coffs Harbour seats should they continue to bypass the people's choice and build their open cut mine monstrosity through the beautiful hills surrounding Coffs Harbour.
Roads Minister, Melinda Pavey, condescendingly stated on Triple M last week that we should all be grateful for the bypass but isn't that like Oliver asking for "more porridge please sir".
Minister Pavey, the ballot box, the people's opprobrium, is a great leveller and brings home the political mantra that politicians represent the people for the time being only.
The weekend Wagga Wagga bi-election proved that.
Paul Owens, Coffs Harbour
Night of opera met with rave reviews
CONGRATULATIONS to our superb Coffs Harbour City Orchestra and it's conductor Tim Egan for the lovely weekend of "Night at the Opera", together with soloists Soprano Bernadette Fisher and Baritone John Greene.
This concert was proudly supported by BCU.
The orchestra members are all dedicated volunteers and their performance was as always of the highest professional standard.
Thank you and we look forward to future performances.
Gordon & Dorothy Whittle
Praise to medical team from family
A BIG thank you to Dr John Mulholland from the Urunga Medical Centre and the nurses and doctors at both Bellingen and Coffs Harbour hospitals for their services and care for Alwyn Kenneth Thornton (Bill) from Urunga.
Thornton & Jarman Family
Industry owes the community answers
I WOULD just like to give a thumbs up to all those industrious souls out there who in their quest for the holy dollar have ripped up our hinterland and planted blueberries.
Thank you for polluting our waterways and getting rid of all of those pesky fish.
And a huge thank you to those regulatory bodies that allowed them to do it.
Blind Freddy could of told you the outcome 10 years ago.
Just what is it about the human condition that leads us to destroy the very things we love and value.
Cheaper fuel that drives you further
WE realise that drivers' in Coffs are getting robbed at the fuel bowser.
I recently travelled via Grafton and Tweed Heads and fuel is 10 cents cheaper per litre.
I drive a 2016 Toyota Corolla that is well maintained, serviced and has good fuel economy.
In the last 12 months I have noticed that the fuel range of my vehicle has noticeably decreased on a consistent basis.
For example, I have just returned from Bundaberg and refuelled at the point when the low-fuel warning had displayed.
Once I had filled with '91' which I always do I realised the range was 617km.
This is unusual because when I have refuelled in Coffs this year the range has been closer to 570.
I am stating my belief that our fuel is being 'diluted' or 'washed' with sub-standard product.
Mark Linney, Toormina