Andrew Fraser was the Member for Coffs Harbour from 1990 until earlier this year.
Andrew Fraser was the Member for Coffs Harbour from 1990 until earlier this year. Trevor Veale

Fraser slams 'greatest waste of money ever seen'

AN ex-politician has weighed into the debate over the Cultural and Civic Space saying there is a simple alternative, which would be almost cost neutral for ratepayers.

Andrew Fraser was the Member for Coffs Harbour from 1990 until earlier this year.

He has been warning against the project since it was first conceived and the cost estimate was $35million.

"They just said I was a dinosaur," Mr Fraser said.

"I might be but I don't believe in wasting public funds."

The Gordon St project, which would include a new library, art gallery, museum and council office space, is currently estimated to cost $76.5million but there are fears among some councillors that this could blow-out to as much as $100-million with long-term consequences.

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Proposed cultural civic space Coffs City council
Proposed Cultural and Civic Space. Submitted

On Thursday night a crucial Coffs Harbour City Council vote will determine whether or not to proceed to tender stage and a number of councillors have aired concern about the costs, particularly in light of a number of unsuccessful funding proposals to State and Federal governments.

"We need to take a deep breath and take a good look at the alternatives and see what can be done at zero or very low cost to ratepayers," Mr Fraser said.

"This project is the greatest waste of money ever seen. We have the opportunity to add a couple of new storeys to the current council chambers - they've had that investigated and costed.

"Then move the gallery to the hill (City Hill), expand the library into the old art gallery space then it comes out at nil, or next to nil, cost to the ratepayer."

He says there has been 'zero' interest in the project from the State and Federal governments.

"From what I can see their back up plan is to sell the airport to cover the cost of it and the airport is bringing in quite a reasonable return on investment at the moment," he said.

Councillors will meet on Thursday evening at 5pm to vote on taking the project to tender stage and the public is welcome to attend.

 

Heather McKinnon says don't listen to the naysayers on the Cultural and Civic Space.
Heather McKinnon says don't listen to the naysayers on the Cultural and Civic Space.

Groups including the Friends of the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery and Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce have come out strongly in support of the project and are lobbying councillors in the lead up to the crucial vote.

Chamber President Martin Wells says the creation of 555 jobs during construction and 31 ongoing long-term local jobs and a minimum $2million worth of economic benefit per annum once this project is complete is critically important to the economy.