COUNCILLOR Jennifer Bonfield has stood by her remarks last week about drug dealing and other unsavoury activities taking place at night near the harbour.
But she has pointed out she was talking purely about the Jetty Foreshores and the area east of the railway line and not referring to the Jetty Strip or the Jetty precinct generally.
The Jetty Business Group has labelled Cr Bonfield’s comments as ‘ill informed’ and ‘incomprehensible’ and called on her to publicly recant, saying her allegations were not supported by any police crime figures obtained by the group.
Justin Squires, writing on behalf of the group, said they also took issue with the council’s concentrated focus on the CBD and wanted prime locations like the Jetty, the ‘jewel in the crown’ to receive ‘their fair share’ of council attention and funding.
“Both the population and employment base of the Coffs Harbour local government area is now so expansive that council surely needs to broaden its focus well beyond the CBD and service other important areas,” Mr Squires said.
“The CBD gets more than its share of attention and funding and given the lack of public parking and issues of public transport, it’s high time business and employment opportunities are promoted in other important areas closer to where people live and play.”
Cr Bonfield, who spends considerable time at the Jetty and kayaks in the harbour, said she was sorry her comments had become a focal point and the objectors were ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’ but she stood by her remarks.
“I’m referring to areas I have seen with my own eyes,” Cr Bonfield said.
“There is a lot of illicit drinking there – it’s very easy to have a nice little booze party without being found. I have seen bongs and friends have told me about (seeing) needles and drug dealing – Joe Blow members of the public see these things, they are not stupid.
“Most beaches have a problem with drunk and disorderly (conduct).”
She said as a single woman she did not feel safe walking on the foreshores after dark and was wary of large groups of both young and older men sitting around and drinking.
Cr Bonfield, who has been on council since 2000, said the cost of upkeep of the harbour, Jetty foreshores and the jetty itself amounted to about $1 million a year and she was ‘passionate’ about seeing careful development of the area proceed.
But planning had been at a stalemate for years and progress of improvements would remain a pipe dream while the State Government said someone had to pay.
“I see no light at the end of the tunnel,’ she said.
She wants to see new introductions such as restaurants, ice cream stalls, promenades which allow the 20% of the population with mobility problems to enjoy ‘strolls’ with sea views, more lighting and low-rise accommodation.
“Someone has to pay for the rock walls and getting the sand out of the harbour,’ Cr Bonfield said.
“We have 56km of golden beaches and this beach used to be a working port.”
The councillor is impatient with those who want no change on the foreshores but disgusted with the State Government which she said was failing to be visionary and ignoring the needs of regional Australia.
She repudiated criticism that her personal and business interests made her CBD-centric, saying she was just as interested in development of Woolgoolga, Sawtell and the Jetty as the CBD.