Can the Coffs Harbour City Council be trusted ‘to honour its word’?

By The Contrarian, 21 July 2017

The former Chairperson of the Coffs Harbour CBD Masterplan Committee, representing those
CBD business ratepayers who agreed to pay a Special Rate Variation (SRV) to the Coffs
Harbour City Council (CHCC), resigned recently because he believed the CHCC was reneging
on an agreement that was outlined and written up in Council minutes, associated Terms of
Reference and other supporting paperwork.
Rod McKelvey, a former Councillor and Deputy Mayor, makes it clear in his resignation letter
to the CHCC that he believes the Council has got in the way of the CBD Masterplan Committee,
re-written agreed Terms of Reference and believes it can “do whatever it wants with the SRV
money”. In his resignation letter he cites a CHCC employee at a CBD Masterplan Committee
meeting in late 2016 saying; “it’s our money (Council’s) and we can spend it on whatever we
want, and we don’t need your permission.”
In essence, and I am paraphrasing here, Mr McKelvey resigned because he had serious doubts
about whether the CHCC can be trusted ‘to honour its word’ and to act with probity, at least
in relation to the SRV and Council’s agreement with the CBD Masterplan Committee.
Let that sink in for a minute.
It doesn’t get much more problematic than that at a Local Government level really other than
corruption, which is not being alleged in this article.
Mr McKelvey is not alone in this. Complaints from other SRV payers and some CBD Masterplan
Committee members lead to the member for Coffs Harbour, Mr Andrew Fraser, making a
statement in the NSW Parliament on the matter. Mr Fraser’s statement, on 17 March last,
direct from a link to Hansard, was published here in the Coffs Outlook on 22 May last wherein
he mentions issues raised by John Rafferty, the CEO of C-Ex, about the CHCC and
dissatisfaction with Council’s actions, attitude and responses to the CBD Masterplan
Committee and also their overall management of the SRV. Mr Fraser cites a letter from Mr
Rafferty wherein Mr Rafferty says;
“Clearly, what’s happening now is not what they (the SRV rate payers) agreed to.
Central to the negotiation of an extension to the SRV, was that CBD Landowners (the
Special-Rate payers) would have a majority of votes on the committee so that no
expenditure could be made without their explicit, minuted approval. That was the deal
maker. All of the discussion about establishing an extension to the special rate, focused
on that critical point. They did not want a situation where Council controlled the
decision-making (my emphasis).
Those paying the SRV are very disappointed that the agreed Terms of Reference can
also be rewritten at any time. And I think that that goes to the heart of the issue, in
that Council has assumed control of the Masterplan funds.

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