A copy of the petition outside Target at Park Beach Plaza on Wednesday. It needs 10,000 signatures to be tabled in State Parliament.
A copy of the petition outside Target at Park Beach Plaza on Wednesday. It needs 10,000 signatures to be tabled in State Parliament.

Petition against civic space sets its sights on parliament

A NEW petition against the proposed Coffs Harbour Cultural and Civic Space is gathering steam to be tabled in NSW parliament.

Ann Leonard is a spokesperson for the group, currently operating under the name Citizens Voice, who want to see plans for the civic space scrapped.

The group has designed a large banner urging people to sign the petition against the: 'progression of the new Council administration building in Gordon Street'.

Council offices are one element of the design which also includes a new library, art gallery and community meeting rooms.

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The banner will do the rounds, along with copies of the petition, starting off outside Target at Park Beach Plaza.

Ms Leonard, who was an Independent candidate in the March State Election, says that contrary to assertions made by some councillors who support the project the group behind the petition is not a noisy minority but a diverse range of concerned citizens with backgrounds in building and construction, law, youth advocacy, small business, big business, public and civil service, politics and education.

"This community of people has grown in response to what is a blatant refusal on the part of Coffs Harbour City Council to engage in an open and transparent conversation with the residents of this city regarding the project," Ms Leonard said.

"Many of us have endeavoured to raise our concerns over the development of what was believed to be a standalone cultural precinct for the people of Coffs Harbour on numerous occasions to little avail."

Ann Leonard speaking against the motion at a recent council meeting. She is one of those behind the group Citizens Voice.
Ann Leonard speaking against the motion at a recent council meeting. She is one of those behind the group Citizens Voice.

She says the reality of the project only hit a chord until recently.

"It is understandable in the busyness of everyday life, the detail of what has been progressing within council along with its focus groups, has not filtered through to the general public.

"It is often stated the information has been available through Council's website and other locations. However, unless you have the wherewithal to comb through hundreds of pages of formal documentation it is easy to miss the detail."

She says the recent council vote (where Mayor Denise Knight used her casting vote as councillors were tied four-four) to defeat the rescission motion to pause proceedings has further angered the community.

"What we are hearing is a deep seated dissatisfaction with the inclusion of new council administrative offices at a cost of around $40 million and the exclusion of a performing arts space.

"This is totally understandable given the community has been waiting for this facility since the demolition of the Civic Centre over 25 years ago in order to facilitate a car park for the Cex."

The group's concerns include accessibility, parking, cost blowouts, financial arrangements, location and the lack of real and transparent communication during the design process.

The petition will be available for signing at the Park Beach Plaza Information Desk or the Art Factory on Orlando St, but Ms Leonard says several businesses from Sawtell to Woolgoolga have asked for copies.