‘How dare he’ warns Mayor as State MP weighs in
COFFS Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh wrote to Coffs Harbour City Councillors prior to tonight's meeting urging them to halt the Cultural and Civic Space.
The move has angered mayor Denise Knight who has consistently voted to progress with the project.
"How dare he - shame on him. We need to create hope and optimism during this pandemic," Cr Knight said.
Cr Paul Amos - one of three councillors who put forward the motion to halt the project due to Covid-19 - read from the letter saying Mr Singh is the "man with the cheque book" and they should take heed.
Cr Sally Townley was surprised by the move from Mr Singh, calling it a veiled threat.
"What is the relevance of including his letter in this debate - it seems like a veiled threat to me," Cr Townley said.
"We shouldn't be taking on this threat and I am very surprised we are introducing it into the discussion tonight."
Mr Singh's letter linked the motion to stall the $76.5m Gordon St project, and sale of council buildings, to a mayoral minute asking the NSW and Federal Governments for urgent financial support as it grapples with mounting revenue losses in the face of Covid-19.
"At tonight's meeting you will be asked to discuss two items, which I believe go hand-in-hand," Mr Singh's letter, dated April 23, stated.
"I believe it would be sophomoric (pretentious or juvenile) of council to be asking for increased financial support from the Federal and State governments while at the same time continuing work on the Cultural and Civic Space considering that the development application has not yet been approved."
Mr Singh has also written to the NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Robert Stokes, expressing his concerns about the project.
"Although it may appear as though Coffs Harbour City Council is moving ahead with this project, half the elected Councillors are strongly against the proposal," he wrote in the letter dated April 22.
Mr Singh said there was widespread concern in the community that the public consultation was not thorough and conducted with hand-picked community members.
He also referred to the many calls he has received for public inquiries into the matter.
"With Covid-19 I understand the reluctance to hold public hearings. But with modern technology I believe this can be overcome."
Ultimately, councillors voted to support the mayoral minute calling for additional support in the face of Covid-19.
Mayor Knight pointed out it is part of a wider campaign by peak industry body Local Government NSW and has been roundly supported across the State.
When it came to debating the motion to halt the Cultural and Civic Space and sale of buildings the familiar four-four divide emerged.
Mayor Denise Knight spoke strongly against the motion to halt the project and expressed her anger at Mr Singh's move to "shut down the project".
"We can't sit on our hands - there has to be vision - there has to be recovery and the only way to get there is to stimulate the economy," Cr Knight said.
Cr Rhoades described the Mayor's words as an 'attack' on the MP which may have the potential to hurt Council in the future.
When the motion was finally put to the vote the usual split emerged. Clrs Keith Rhoades, Paul Amos, Tegan Swan and John Arkan voted to halt the project while councillors Denise Knight, Sally Townley, Michael Adendorff and George Cecato voted to push ahead.
With votes tied mayor Knight used her casting vote to defeat the motion.