Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock took to commercial radio this morning calling for a halt to the project.
Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock took to commercial radio this morning calling for a halt to the project.

Minister will change the law if that's what it takes

Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock has taken to commercial radio this morning to call for a pause on the Cultural and Civic Space.

She has also foreshadowed legislative changes to force the issue.

It comes after Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh sent an urgent letter to Coffs Harbour City Councillors prior to Thursday night's meeting where a motion to stall the $76.5m CBD project was being considered.

In a strongly worded letter, Mr Singh urged them to halt the project in light of Covid-19 and Council's request for emergency funding from Sate and Federal Governments.

After months of removing himself from the vexed debate, the move came as a surprise to some and angered Mayor Denise Knight.

"How dare he - shame on him. We need to create hope and optimism during this pandemic," Cr Knight said.

Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock (at left) with Deputy Premiere John Barilaro and NSW Premiere Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock (at left) with Deputy Premiere John Barilaro and NSW Premiere Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Dylan Robinson

This morning Minister Hancock was on air with Ray Hadley slamming Cr Knight's actions, and those who voted with her, as foolish and rash.

"I know she apologised and maybe she was hot under the collar but can I tell you something about Gurmesh Singh? - he is the greatest advocate for Coffs Harbour," Ms Hancock said.

"His letter was not controversial. It was saying put a pause on this and I agree with him."

RELATED:  'How dare he' warns mayor as State MP weighs in 

She has warned that if Council do not pause the project she will investigate legislative changes to make it happen.

"I am really concerned about it but I have no power to sack the Council. I have looked into all the allegations of impropriety but they have fulfilled all their legislative requirements.

"If I need to consider some legislative changes on this then I will do that."

Minister Hancock spoke of a community divided and dissatisfied on the issue and questioned the Mayor's use of the casting vote.

"If you have a casting vote you don't use it unless to adhere to the status quo - that was always the case when I was on Council but again there is no rule against what she has done."

In July last year Deputy Mayor Tegan Swan was one of four councillors to walk out of a vote on the matter.
In July last year Deputy Mayor Tegan Swan was one of four councillors to walk out of a vote on the matter.

Deputy Mayor Tegan Swan has consistently voted against progressing with the Cultural and Civic Space and says the Minister's interview this morning shows the issue has captured national attention.

She defended the interview with Mr Hadley known for his aggressive approach both on and off-air.

"I have been the subject of Ray Hadley's wrath so I know it doesn't feel very nice. Shock jock radio is not my personal choice in listening, and I think there are better ways to discuss things," Cr Swan said.

"But the fact this issue is of enough significance to make that radio show - I guess it does indicate that it's got to the point where it's creating that much attention and angst that it's worthy for the whole nation to listen to."

More to come



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