THEIR relationship has long been fractious but the gloves are now well and truly off between Coffs Harbour’s mayor and its state member of parliament.
Councillor Keith Rhoades has taken the extraordinary and very public step of calling on Andrew Fraser to stop taking cheap political shots and to focus more on working for the community.
“Coffs Harbour has suffered long enough because of misrepresentation through politics,” Cr Rhoades said. “It is time Mr Fraser concentrated on doing what he has been elected to do.”
For the mayor, the breaking point came on Monday when he read an article in The Advocate in which Mr Fraser said he believed the Coffs Harbour City Council was party to State Government plans to sell off the showgrounds.
The Member for Coffs Harbour cited excerpts from two council planning documents to express his fear that council is aware that the government wants to hand the showgrounds over to developers.
“This has got to stop,” Cr Rhoades said.
“Andrew Fraser is just taking pot shots at council and therefore at me because I haven’t shown my hand about whether I will contest the upcoming federal or state elections,” he said.
“Mr Fraser needs to take the fear factor out of the equation and just get on with his job.”
Cr Rhoades said the references to the showgrounds in the Open Space Strategy and the Sports Facility Plan were linked to a $750,000 Federal Government grant for a new cycleway/walkway, and because council had no influence over the future of the area.
“The State Government owns it and an administrator manages the showground. Council is not party to what plans either have for its future,” he said.
“I have never ever had any meetings with developers, potential buyers, bureaucrats or any member of parliament from the government or opposition regarding the sale of the showground. Council’s general manager is in the same boat. There are no plans before council for any redevelopment of the site.”
The mayor’s decision to go public with his estrangement from Mr Fraser of course begs the question as to whether he intends running for parliament – state or federal.
For now he isn’t revealing his hand.
“My biggest enjoyment and greatest satisfaction from local government is getting outcomes for Coffs Harbour. To do that I will lobby and negotiate with people from all political persuasions and parties. I love my independence and treasure my ability to do that,” Cr Rhoades said.
“Can I say to Mr Fraser, don’t worry about what I might or might not do but just get on with your job and do what needs to be done for this city.”
Mr Fraser, who was yesterday in State Parliament, said he was shocked by the mayor’s attack.
“I was reacting to information I got off the council’s website which inferred the possibility of a major redevelopment of the showground. In no way was I making an attack on council or Mr Rhoades,” Mr Fraser said.
Mr Fraser said he had since taken the issue up with the minister Tony Kelly.
“He assured me the Land and Property Management Authority has no plans to sell the showground and suggested I seek more information from council.
“The showground is a valuable community asset and I will not sit idly by and see anything happen with it.”