The controversial $76.5 million Cultural and Civic Space was raised again in the Coffs Harbour City Council chambers on Thursday night.
The controversial $76.5 million Cultural and Civic Space was raised again in the Coffs Harbour City Council chambers on Thursday night. Trevor Veale

'The rage is palpable': Cultural Centre back on the agenda

IT WAS another packed public gallery and fiery debate with the Cultural and Civic Space back on the agenda at Thursday night's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.

Lawyer Heather McKinnon addressed councillors urging them not to support the two separate motions calling for further consultation on the project.

Cr Tegan Swan's motion was to pause the project to allow for further consultation and Cr Paul Amos was calling for an independent phone poll to gauge the level of support for the $76.5m project.

Ms McKinnon urged councillors not to give into the "vortex of popularism" and said the rage in the room was palpable.

"Polls give evidence on single issues.  For example with same sex marriage - big philosophical issues that have a yes or no answer," Ms McKinnon said. 

"I see a community in hard times. This project allows them to focus their fear and create some angst. The role of politicians is to critically analyse material and make decisions on behalf of the community."

Ann Leonard has been a vocal critic of the CBD project and addressed councillors in support of the motions from Crs Swan and Amos.

"This glamorous glass tower on a congested block in the back roads of our city - it's an insanity.  There is no logic in any of this.  It's a waste of money," Ms Leonard said.

A packed gallery at this evening's Coffs Harbour City council meeting.
A packed gallery at this evening's Coffs Harbour City council meeting. Janine Watson


When the motion to conduct a poll was put to the vote it was split along familiar lines.

Councillors have been split four/four on the project for months now with Crs Tegan Swan, Paul Amos, Keith Rhoades and John Arkan against progressing with it in its current form and Crs Denise Knight, George Cecato, Sally Townley and Michael Adendorff in favour.

But rather than casting a deciding vote this time, Mayor Denise Knight cited a specific clause in the code of meeting practice which indicates a tied vote means the motion is lost.

Cr Arkan was quick to question this.

"Has this part of the Act just been written today ?"

Cr Knight responded angrily saying: "I take offence to that. If you read the code of practice you would know that."

Discussion then moved to Cr Swan's motion to pause the project and Cr Rhoades spoke in support of it.  He made reference to the tied vote on the previous motion saying it was akin to a casting vote.

Mayor Cr Knight took to her feet to defend the process.

"It was not a casting vote.  I exercised my right as the chair through the code of meeting practice from the Office of Local Government which you have upheld for years."

As anticipated the vote on Cr Swan's motion to pause the project was tied with the Mayor this time using her casting vote to defeat it meaning the project can progress…for now.



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