After more than three hours of debate and questions, future plans for the Cultural & Civic Space is no closer to finalised.
In front of a full gallery, with standing room only, councillors debated 3 separate motions before finally returning to the original recommendation to move forward with the detailed design and construction, approving the full funding of $76,520,000.
While the final vote saw Councillors divided 4-4, the Mayor said she took great delight in using her casting vote to support the motion.
However, in a turn of the tables, Triple M understands that a rescission motion has been lodged by a number of councillors to the General Manager which now puts tonight's decision on hold.
Earlier in the night, two people from the public spoke for the motion, while one spoke against. There was some concern after one member of the public listed to speak against was not present. That later lead to an email to Council claiming that the member did not receive confirmation from Council to speak.
Local Ann Leonard spoke against the current project, commending Cr Tegan Swan for using social media platforms and local business people for speaking up about their concerns.
“There is no man or woman in this room who wouldn’t agree that we need more cultural facilities”, Mrs Leonard said.
However she questioned whether Council can confirm that there will be no budget blowout, and that traffic flow and parking has been addressed appropriately.
Members of the gallery applauded when she mentioned that the key part missing from the project was a performance/entertainment space.
Caitlin Zugajev spoke for the project on behalf of the youth of Coffs Harbour, saying that it will rejuvenate our city.
When asked by Cr Rhoades if the youth of Coffs Harbour would support the project without the Council Administration Building included, she responded, “Absolutely”.
C.ex Group CEO, John Rafferty, spoke for the project, revealing that they are planning to build an entertainment centre. He said that he would not however support the project without the council administration building integrated into the new facility.
In the opening discussions, Mayor Denise Knight said, “Have we done our homework, yes we have”.
Cr Knight encouraged all councillors to vote for the motion in its entirety.
“Some if you will not agree, some people will not like it, and I respect that”.
Cr Keith Rhoades offered an amendment to support the new facility housing a library, art gallery and museum, while calling on council to remove the Castle Street Administration Building from the plans, with the intention to investigate adding an additional level to the existing Council building.
“Do I support a new library, yes I do. Do I support a new art gallery, yes I do. Do I support a new museum, yes I do”. But when saying he did not support the council administration in the project, it was backed by cheering from the gallery.
“We’ve never been given the opportunity to look at the project without the council administration in it”.
“Let’s take a deep breath”, Cr Rhoades said.
His amendment was also asking for an immediate start to re-costing and redesigning the proposed new building, while also investigating the option of an entertainment and performing centre.
Councillor Michael Adendorff was not in support of Cr Rhoades’ amendment, comparing the move of all council staff to one building, to “buying all the fish in a fish tank from the start”.
Cr Rhoades' amendment was not carried after the mayor's casting vote resulted in it's loss.
Two further amendments were raised and lost.
While many left the gallery with the understanding that the project will progress to the next stage, the final outcome is yet to be known possibly until the next meeting in a fortnight.