Councillor lashes out at lack of response

COFFS Harbour councillor Ian Hogbin has described the local business community's response to the council's new draft management plan as 'absolutely disgraceful'.

He said the Woolgoolga Chamber of Commerce was the only local business chamber to make a submission, and deserved credit for doing so, while only one business in the city made comment, only one tourist operator commented and only seven community groups bothered.

"I find this very disappointing. We're only representatives of the public and if the public don't talk to us, we then stand condemned for what we do," he said.

"The community had their opportunity, they were silent on the matter and therefore, they should respect the wishes of the council to improve infrastructure and do the work we want to do."

Cr Hogbin was speaking after Thursday night's council meeting which saw councillors dismayed at the lacklustre response to the 2008/2011 draft management plan.

The blueprint attracted only 50 submissions, including a paltry four on proposed rate hikes. All of those four opposed the increases.

Half the submissions called for a footbridge over Woolgoolga's Jarretts Creek, eight supported paving in Coffs Harbour's Curacoa Street, and 13 asked for improvements at specific sites in the city.

Last month's public meeting was attended by only 20 members of the public.

Cr Clive Joass, who was 'dead set against' rate increases because of hardship for ratepayers, had a different take.

"The general reaction (in the community) is why put it to council. They won't change their mind, and this is the attitude," he said.

Deputy mayor Cr Rod McKelvey was also disappointed with the community response, considering the 'amount of blood, sweat and tears we put into this'.

"We are here to represent the feelings of the community. If four out of 27,000 or so ratepayers are the only ones who commented on the rate rise, we really are bound to go to the community with it."

"The community didn't object to it. More people were worried about a footbridge. The people had their chance and have not spoken."

The special meeting, which decided to seek State Government permission for rate increases in 2008/2009, was over in 15 minutes.

The mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, Cr Jenny Bonfield and Cr Bill Palmer were absent.

On top of the 3.2 per cent rate pegging allowance, the council wants a further 2.5 per cent hike in residential, farmland and city centre business rates, with an additional six per cent increase in the citywide business rate.

The council will adopt its draft management plan by June 30, once Local Government Minister Paul Lynch makes his decision.

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