Sad day for city
By DAVID MOASE
COFFS HARBOUR Neighbourhood Centre used to offer its clients a financial counselling service but the centre was yesterday forced to appoint a liquidator amid a financial crisis.
The centre closed its doors on June 24 and yesterday told members and creditors it was drowning under debts of about $200,000.
Members yesterday resolved to take the neighbourhood centre, which was the overseeing body for about 20 community programs including services for children and migrants, down the path of liquidation.
Morgan Chubb, of Clout and Associates, has been appointed the liquidator and will investigate how the centre ended up so far in debt.
The chair of the centre's management committee, Rev Jane Foulcher, said it was a sad day.
"The centre has been operating for 20-25 years so it is sad to be in this situation," she said.
"When the dust has settled we will need to get together with the staff and the volunteers to acknowledge the end of the centre."
Rev Foulcher said much of the centre's financial trouble was the result of rising public liability and workers' compensation insurance costs.
One of the program co-ordinators 'mourning' the centre's closure, Carole Villiers, of the Harbour Youth Service, said along with the centre's debt, money that had been held in trust by the neighbourhood centre was now gone.
She said the Youth Suicide Prevention Committee had lost $11,000 that had been raised by the community groups and school students. That money had funded a number of vital services for young people under stress.
Rev Foulcher said it would be Mr Chubb's job to investigate what has happened to the centre's funds and report to both creditors and the Australian Security and Investment Commission.
The Neighbourhood Centre was the umbrella body for community organisation such as Harbour Youth Service, Coffs Harbour
Accommodation and Brokerage Housing Support Service, Community Settlement Service Scheme, Unity and Diversity Project, Migrant Stories Project, Accessible Ceramic Art Project, financial services and tax help, Links 2 Learning and about 10 children's services programs.
Following yesterday's meetings, many of the program co-ordinators, volunteers and employees met to support each other and try to work out where they go from here.
They said all their programs had been running under budget and were shocked when they were told of the financial trouble.
"We had no idea and the staff had no idea," Cheryl Boulton said.
"We couldn't prepare the community for the centre's closure because we weren't aware."
They said they were personally devastated but even more concerned for the people who use the centre's services. They have been carrying on their work unpaid in an attempt to help clients while also trying to find organisations that will auspice their programs.