Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight chairs last Thursday night's council meeting.
Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight chairs last Thursday night's council meeting. TREVOR VEALE

Mayor disappointed by cultural divide

AS FORMER Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser steps up his campaign against the Cultural and Civic Space, the Mayor has responded.

Mr Fraser has called a community 'crisis' meeting for ratepayers to air their concerns about the $76.5million project slated for Gordon St, which will include a new library, art gallery, museum and council offices. 

The meeting is planned for this Thursday in the Norm Jordan Pavilion at 6pm.

"Any community member is entitled to have a public meeting, but I am a little bit disappointed," Mayor Denise Knight said.

"I thought Andrew had more integrity than that, but I understand that in the past, he has been wedded to City Hill, but is clutching at straws."

FRASER: Cultural divide prompts 'crisis' community meeting

Mr Fraser would like to see the new art gallery built at City Hill. 

Under his suggestion, the existing library would then expand into the adjoining gallery space and other council assets would be sold to fund the refurbishment of the current council chambers.

After a marathon Coffs Harbour City Council meeting last Thursday night, and with votes tied, Cr Knight used her casting vote to progress the Cultural and Civic Space to detailed design and construction stage.


Coffs Harbour City Council has today released the design for the $76.5 million Civic and Cultural Centre.
Coffs Harbour City Council's design for the $76.5 million Civic and Cultural Centre. CHCC

Mr Fraser has criticised Cr Knight for using her casting vote in such a situation.

"Councillors were split 4-all and normally basic procedure is that when the vote is tied the status-quo prevails. You don't use the casting vote to support a proposed new development," Mr Fraser said.

But as Cr Knight points out, she has been forced to use her casting vote on several occasions with Cr Jan Strom on extended leave for almost a year before officially resigning in March.

"The casting vote being used for the status-quo is rubbish according to the office of local government," Cr Knight said.

Most recently she used her casting vote to allocate $700,000 to the Northern Beaches Multipurpose Centre at Woolgoolga.

"I am well within my rights to use my casting vote and I've done it on a number of occasions; otherwise things wouldn't get done," she said.

Despite casting the deciding vote to progress the project a rescission motion was lodged at the end of the meeting meaning the matter will be up for discussion again at next week's council meeting.

An alternative motion, to be outlined in the business paper prior to the meeting, will be considered.

It's likely the motion will involve delaying the allocation of $76,520,000 to the project and investigating a number of other scenarios including refurbishing the current council chambers rather than selling it off and options to include an entertainment centre in the project.


Council Meeting Re Cultural and Civic space development.John Rafferty C.ex. 11 July 2019
C.ex Group CEO John Rafferty speaks in support of the Cultural and Civic Space development. TREVOR VEALE

One of the greatest criticisms of the Cultural and Civic Space is its lack of a community owned performing arts space. 

After much speculation, CEO of the C.ex Group John Rafferty revealed the board's plans to build an entertainment centre in front of the packed public gallery on Thursday night.

Mr Rafferty was speaking in support of progressing the Cultural and Civic Space project based on existing plans, but would not reveal the details of his plans for an entertainment centre saying only:

"It's with the State government at the moment and there's some confidentiality around that so I can't say much more than that," Mr Rafferty said.

He would not comment further to the Advocate this week, but he and current State Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh have confirmed they will be meeting this week to discuss the project.