Drama unfolds at council meeting

IN a night of high drama at Coffs Harbour City Council’s final meeting for the year, one councillor was taken to hospital by ambulance and vacated the chamber in the midst of debate on the draft City Centre Plan and another declared an interest and vacated the chamber.

The adoption of the plan at the meeting on a 5-2 vote was thrown into doubt yesterday by a rescission motion lodged by three councillors.

In adopting the plan, under pressure from the State Government to push it through to the next stage this year, councillors also resolved that the findings of the Priority Habitats and Corridors Strategy; the Coffs Harbour Coastal Processes Hazards Definition Study; the Koala Plan of Management Review and the Rail Feasibility Study, “when and if adopted by council” be addressed in the Local Environment Plan or by way of planning proposals.

That has not satisfied councillors Jennifer Bonfield, Mark Graham and Rodney Degens, who yesterday lodged a rescission motion that:

1) The Coffs Harbour City Centre Plan be reviewed and amended to ensure the best economic outcomes for the city;

2) That the CCP be reviewed and amended to incorporate the findings of any technical reports that council is in receipt of, and ;

3) That the amended City Centre Plan be publicly exhibited for 90 days.

Cr Bonfield said yesterday she was unhappy with the existing plan, which she believed was process-driven and state-driven instead of outcome-driven and was not what local people wanted.

She said she did not think these problems could be solved “in retrospect” and working in real estate she was seeing the dire results of poor planning and unwanted buildings, as had happened at Park Beach.

“It’s not good enough, we have had some pretty bad planning,” Cr Bonfield said.

“We want a design that suits us.”

She said they were also about to appoint a new departmental head of planning and a state election in March would see more changes.

On Thursday night, Cr Bonfield, who has been unwell, felt ill and left the chamber shortly after speaking in favour of a motion for the council to review and amend the draft City Centre Plan to include the findings of the Coffs Harbour Coastal Processes Hazards Definition Study.

Deputy Mayor Denise Knight, a nurse, who had declared a pecuniary interest in the matter and left the chamber, cared for Cr Bonfield until an ambulance arrived to take her to hospital.

Cr Bonfield was back at work yesterday, but said she was still battling the complaint, tentatively diagnosed as whooping cough.

A spokesman for the Jetty Action Group, Ashley Love, addressed the councillors on the City Centre Plan ahead of the debate.

He said the plan had “apparently inseparable” links to the Lands Department Jetty Foreshores Plan of Management, which was flawed because it was based on a predicted doubling of the commercial fishing industry.

The night of drama continued when a proposal to accept an invitation for the Coffs Harbour City Council general manager to sit on the board of Rally Australia turned into a stormy clash between Greens councillor Mark Graham and Coffs Harbour Mayor Keith Rhoades over Cr Graham’s concerns over routes he believes will pass through conservation zones.

The discussion, which ranged from possible routes and problems with the rally when it was held at Kyogle, pitted the two Greens councillors, Cr Graham and Cr Degens against the rest of the councillors, with Cr Knight and John Arkan speaking in support of the new GM Steve McGrath sitting on the rally board.

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