NOT HAPPY: Mayor Denise Knight across from the Harbour Drive pre-polling shopfront.
NOT HAPPY: Mayor Denise Knight across from the Harbour Drive pre-polling shopfront. TREVOR VEALE

Mayor 'hopping mad' about pre-poll chaos in the CBD

THE Mayor is fed up with fielding angry calls about the federal election pre-poll shopfront in the CBD.

"I'm hopping mad about this. I had to literally hold the phone away from my ear on the last call - the woman was so mad yelling at me," Cr Denise Knight said.

She agrees it's "a mess" and has assured angry locals it's the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), and not Coffs Harbour City Council, who determine the location of pre-polling.

The shopfront at 48 Harbour Drive (the former Adairs shop near the St George Bank) is already a high traffic area with limited parking and disabled access with paving and other construction work currently under way as part of the city centre upgrade.

To add a busy polling booth with spruiking volunteers from a range of parties in the hotly contested May 18 Federal Election is just ludicrous according to Cr Knight.

"This is completely unsatisfactory. The businesses have been so wonderful with all the work being done on the upgrade and now this has been thrust on them as well. I'm furious. Thursday was even worse with rain and the weekly farmers market - it was crazy.

"Voting locations have been moved in the past, but generally - 90 per cent of the time - it's at Norm Jordan Pavilion.

"One woman who rang said she drove to the showground; negotiated the tricky turn in there; parked and got out with crutches and wheelchair and banged on the door and nobody was there. There wasn't even a sign to say it wasn't there."

She contacted the AEC to express her concerns and they've agreed to put up a sign at the showground alerting voters.

The pavilion is not being used due to a clash with the Coffs Harbour Show from May 17 to 19 and the facility being unavailable the week prior.

In the past when the showground was not been available for whatever reason, council has been consulted on an appropriate alternative but this hasn't happened in this case according to Cr Knight.

"One would wonder who owns that shop (48 Harbour Drive). I would hope nothing suspicious is going on. The first I knew of it was when I went to get my lunch.

"With council facilities like the Cavanbah Centre we can work with the various groups that use them to make alternative arrangements and it always works very well and they are happy to work in with us," Cr Knight said.

 

Mayor Denise Knight says the first she knew of the CBD pre-poll location was when she went out for lunch last week.
Mayor Denise Knight says the first she knew of the CBD pre-poll location was when she went out for lunch last week. TREVOR VEALE

The AEC says the Cavanbah Centre was considered but that previous experience (and advice from Cavanbah staff) indicated it was not a feasible option for a three week hire period. Cr Knight has refuted this, saying it's directly at odds with information from council staff which shows the AEC contacted council to book the centre for training and voting on election weekend only, and not as a pre-polling space.

Prior to leasing the current premises the AEC claim there were many sites investigated online, but they were found unsuitable for various reasons including insufficient space, poor condition, and location.

"The services of a local real estate agent specialising in commercial leasing were engaged and three potential premises were physically inspected. The current premises was assessed as the most suitable," a spokesperson said.

Some have complained about the pushy nature of volunteers handing out how-to-vote material on behalf of the candidates but the AEC says this is outside their jurisdiction.

"If there are issues with the volunteers it should be reported to the candidates office or the party," an AEC spokesperson said.



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