Angry residents gather outside Coffs Harbour City Council Chambers on Thursday night.
Angry residents gather outside Coffs Harbour City Council Chambers on Thursday night.

Meeting erupts


Council 'shamed' in savage attack by irate ratepayers

IT MAY have been their second anniversary, and they may have been thinking they were doing an okay job, but Coffs Harbour City Council was given a very clear, strong message on Thursday night: "We have no confidence in you!"

About 100 ratepayers attended Thursday night's council meeting to lend support to a public forum address by Northern Beaches resident Margaret Murphy.

Among the large crowd were working professionals, school teachers and a school principal, members of the Punjabi Sikh community, ordinary mums and dads, and retirees.

Carrying placards stating 'Shame Council Shame' and 'Council Does Not Listen To Ratepayers', and amid cries of 'Your days are numbered, Keith' and 'There's a storm coming weatherman' (in reference to Cr Keith Rhoades' recent appearance as the Today show's weatherman), Ms Murphy delivered a vicious attack on the council as a whole, as well as councillors individually, and the general manager, Stephen Sawtell.

Covering a range of issues from the Pacific Highway bypass to the Our Living City Settlement Strategy, to the multicultural committee, to the benzene contamination of Coramba, to the destruction of koala habitat, Ms Murphy used her five minutes to deliver a broad assault on the city's mayor and eight councillors.

"The people of Coffs Harbour do not have confidence in you to do the job they elected you to do," Ms Murphy said.

"There is a prescribed obligation that all councillors and council staff have to fairly and transparently represent the people of Coffs Harbour, and you have failed miserably.

"You are collectively a disgrace. Not only to yourselves but more importantly to those people who voted for you. Those people who trusted you. Those people who thought you had community spirit, integrity and heart."

Ms Murphy ended her vitriol by paraphrasing former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam: "Well may we say God Save the Queen, because nothing will save the Coffs Harbour City Council", thus prompting those in the gallery to erupt into loud applause and cries of 'hear, hear'. n To Page 6

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What then followed harked back to the bygone era of former mayor John Smith and the Look At Me Now ocean outfall protests some 15 years ago.

As Cr Rhoades proceeded to continue with the meeting, the public gallery moved forward to stand not so silently, holding up their placards, crying out and successfully doing their best to disrupt the meeting.

While the councillors and mayor did their level best to ignore the protestors, Cr Rhoades eventually spoke out to address the Chamber gallery.

"This is the great part of living in a democ- racy. The councillors did not interrupt you when you were talking. We are running a meeting here," Cr Rhoades said.

It wasn't until more than an hour later, at the end of the meeting, that Cr Rhoades made comment on what had happened.

"That would have to be the most disgusting address to a council that I have ever heard," Cr Rhoades said.

"I have big shoulders, I can take it, but to have that person attack each of the councillors, I find it very disappointing.

"It was disturbing that a person chose to use the public forum to personally attack each and every councillor."

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