Council couldn't miss the frustration of one resident who doesn't support the $76.5 million Civic and Cultural Space development at tonight's meeting.
Council couldn't miss the frustration of one resident who doesn't support the $76.5 million Civic and Cultural Space development at tonight's meeting. Janine Watson

POINT OF NO RETURN: Contracts drawn up on $76.5m project

CONTRACTS will be awarded for a number of key roles to progress the Cultural and Civic Space.

It was another lengthy and heated debate with Coffs Harbour City Councillors yet again divided in their support for the $76.5m Gordon Street project on Thursday night.

With votes tied four-four Mayor Denise Knight used her casting vote to support three separate motions to award tenders for three key roles: project manager, head design consultant and cost manager.

The development application to demolish the buildings along Gordon Street to make way for the controversial project was also approved with Cr Amos tipping the vote.

A number of passionate public addresses were made before Councillors began their debate.

At one point a member of the public gallery interrupted Cr George Cecato who was on his feet in support of the project.

The man shouted out asking if Cr Cecato had been drinking then held up a large sign with the words: 'sack the council' before being bundled out by a Civic Space supporter.

Jonathan Cassell was one of the speakers addressing Councillors in favour of moving ahead with the appointment of contractors saying it was a "prudent and urgent vision" for Coffs Harbour.

"It places at the heart of our city infrastructure that will develop our sense of belonging. We need now, more than ever, civic spaces that harness social capital.  It is like the glue that binds us together and helps us belong," Mr Cassell said.

Gai Anderson was one of those speaking against awarding tenders, particularly in light of the fact the State Government is yet to approve Council's development application (DA).

A DA for the project is currently with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment who will ultimately be responsible for approving or denying it. 

A whopping 874 submissions were submitted in relation to the application with the majority against it.

"Council is putting the cart before the horse yet again, continuing in an illogical and reckless manner," Ms Anderson said.

During her address Ms Anderson alluded to ongoing breaches of conduct and conflicts of interest with Mayor Knight having to interrupt her on several occasions.

"I ask you to please tread carefully…please do not make allegations…please, I am warning you let's get to the point I have not broken any rules," Cr Knight repeated.

George Partos, a self-confessed "want-to-be artist" said he was a great supporter of the arts, but the inclusion of Council office spaces was the "thorn in the side" of the Cultural and Civic Space.

Some councillors including Paul Amos attempted to move alternative motions that would see contracts awarded only after the DA for the project was approved, but the move was ultimately rejected.

General Manager Steve McGrath pointed out that a number of large projects including the C.ex Coffs International Stadium were progressed in such a manner with contracts awarded prior to full DA approval.

Cr Cecato drew on personal experience with developing several commercial and private properties in a similar way - engaging contractors before full approval.

Cr Townley recognised the magnitude of the project and the level of concern in the community.

"On the basis of the huge volumes of information we've been given it's a very unlikely outcome that the DA will not be approved," Cr Townley said.

"If we delay, the risk is we're incurring more cost overruns and will lose momentum. Acting in the best interests of the community I am happy to accept that risk and move forward. 

"This is the largest cultural infrastructure project ever undertaken in this LGA and it is a big deal and we need to engage project managers at the earliest opportunity if we're going to have the best possible outcome."