An attentive audience at the Community Forum held at the Coffs Harbour Education Campus.
An attentive audience at the Community Forum held at the Coffs Harbour Education Campus. Leigh Jensen

Coffs must unite for forum

IF it fulfils its potential, the Community Forum held at Coffs Harbour this week will be a game changer in the future of the city.

But there are a lot of hard yards ahead and success will depend on creative thinking as well as a spirit of co-operation and renewal.

Between 150 and 200 people attended the forum held at the Coffs Harbour Education Campus on Wednesday night and hosted by Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour City Council and the Coffs Coast Advocate.

It was designed as the first of a series of three forums looking at where the city is now, where it would like to be and how to get there.

Economist Professor Ian Eddie and education expert Professor Richard Smith placed the city in

the context of national and international trends in their addresses, using a range of statistical data to illustrate their points.

Prof Smith made a passionate plea for improving the educational status of the city’s population as a powerful tool for improving its performance on a wide range of measures, creating better social and health outcomes as well as economic prosperity.

He spoke about less tangible facilities which made communities great, like knowledge clusters where people with skills in certain areas gathered in certain centres, similar to musicians around Nashville and IT experts around Silicon Valley in the USA.

A panel made up of the two professors plus Coffs Harbour business owners Julie Jardine, James Parker, Peter Lubans and Fiona Bardon responded to a range of questions posed by MC Graeme Singleton, who is the new editor of the Coffs Coast Advocate, and members of the audience.

James Parker, the principal of Jetty Research, drew a warm response when he called for Coffs Harbour to adopt an approach which proved successful in Sydney’s Walsh Bay Wharf redevelopment, where all the different interests involved in the precinct agreed to compromise on some of their demands in order to complete the project for the benefit of all.

Prof Smith called for new ways of thinking, saying if we continue to use the same ways of dealing with the same problems no new solutions will emerge.

Ms Bardon, the principal of the Butterfly House, said teamwork allowed even small communities with great ideas to create new facilities and reinvigorate their towns.

A call to refresh and renew tourism facilities in Coffs was also widely wel-comed.

Several members of the audience expressed weariness about the number of “talk fests” which have come and gone over many years but this topic elicited considerable debate.

Others noted the recent completion of important infrastructure projects such as the city’s regional water supply and sewerage schemes.

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