Coffs Harbour’s economy is largely stagnant.

Hi Hugh,

I hope you’ll publish this article regarding Council’s operations.

Tried to call you but no answer. Will do so again soon.

Andrew :o)

Since Hugh has offered me the opportunity to present a conservative/libertarian viewpoint on a local issue, I’d like to advance a short argument in favour of reducing the budgets (and therefore staff) of Council’s EDU and similar programs. This would be in line with Cr Cowling’s recent proposal to ensure a balanced annual budget, but I’d like to see it happen across all of Council’s operations as a matter of principle.

Council spends an amazing amount of our money on the conduct of studies, writing of reports and applying for grants before very much at all—if anything—is achieved. Economists term this spending of resources in order to gain an increased share of existing wealth, rather than actually creating wealth, as “rent-seeking.” State and federal governments love redistributing wealth to rent-seekers because it maintains their power base; public servants love it because they are guaranteed a specialised career and increased authority; and Progressives love it because they can fund favoured causes without needing to expend their own personal wealth.

But I argue that rent-seeking is hazardous to our community. At a time when Council already carries a debt load of nearly one-quarter-of-a-billion dollars, we’d surely be better off allocating what money we have left to research and development, improved business practices, and productivity increases rather than to lobbyists.

A 1971 study by William Niskanen found that rent-seeking by bureaucracy actually tends to push up the cost of production of public goods, which in our case means ever-increasing demands for higher rates. Sound familiar? And in a highly regarded doctoral thesis entitled “The economic consequences of the size of government in Australia,” Dr Julie Novak recently found inter alia that an increase in government size by ten percentage points is associated with a lower annual GDP per capita growth rate of between 1.2 and 2.5 percentage points. So reduce the size of local government (presently about 490 staff across nearly 30 different locations) by 50 or so people and we ought to see not only a commensurate reduction in rates, but a reduction in overall debt levels and a corresponding increase in economic growth in the LGA of about two percent per annum. Easy! And just think of what innovation might be free to blossom in a less constrained business environment as well.

I reckon liberals and conservatives could find common ground on this issue. Nobody likes to see anybody overuse their artificial monopoly power to extract excessive fees, charges and other recurrent payments from the rest of society, including productive businesses, so why should our Council continue to do so? Why should Council continue to use its zoning and other regulations to protect incumbent landowners’ property values in the CBD? And why should it discourage the use of cars in the CBD on philosophical grounds, when it knows full well that the retailers and service providers who actually create wealth in that location rely on a car-loving public’s patronage.

Coffs Harbour’s economy is largely stagnant. Our Council is bloated (yet still growing) and geared toward rent-seeking at the expense of everybody else in our community. Surely we can all—owners of productive businesses, employees, populist conservatives and liberal reformers alike—unite to sort out the mess.

‘Government Grabs more Gold’

Hi Hugh

I hope all is well!

The following is provided for publication on CoffsOutlook

I have just received a rates hike notice from the Coffs Harbour City Council.

It wasn’t called this of course – being disguised as a ‘Your Council – Your Community‘ notice.

It should’ve been called a ‘Government Grabs more Gold’ notice!

I don’t buy all of the bleating in this notice about ‘hard budget choices’.

Remember how last year they budgeted for 6% salary increases across the board for 12-13 and for the ensuing three years – 6% a year in salary increases for four years straight!!!

Is this the real reason why the rates are going up again – this time by 5.43%

Council should be benchmarking staff salaries on comparable roles in the local community and in adjoining regional local councils like the Grafton City Council – not on Sydney!!!

We have two large upmarket properties (>1000m2) in two major Australian cities, both within 20 minutes’ drive of the city centers and last year Coffs Harbour City Council rates (excl. water & sewage) for our remotely located Coffs Harbour land in what is substantially a little coastal retirement village, which, by the way, the Coffs Harbour City Council took ‘pre-developed’ by other Councils through mis-representation of residents preference to remain with their prior Council, were already 6-7% higher than for these two properties ($1421 cmf $1344 & $1161). This is before this rate hike of 5.43%! Neither of the other Councils has proposed more than twice the inflation rate increase for 2013-14. The Coffs Harbour City Council is opening up their lead on other rates – not catching up on them!!!

We have considered investing in more property in Coffs Harbour and the Council rates kill the financial viability of doing this even with suppressed property prices. The Council rates charged on units are socially criminal and are robbing current property investors (providers of low income homes) of reasonable property price returns!

We can only assume that we are being ripped off by Fat Cats who cannot manage a Council – who feel that they have to pay double the going increases to employees to keep things going.

Last year the Council sort-of asked permission in advance for the increases by way of an (empty) invitation to comment. Comments were of course registered and ignored and the following increases were pushed through regardless: water consumption (5%), sewerage access (5.5%) and waste collection & recycling charges (up to 15%).

It seems this year the Coffs Harbour City Council will try the ‘asking for forgiveness is easier than asking for permission’ approach with the invitation for comments to take place AFTER the rate hike is in effect.

As I said a year ago and basically repeat here:

Wake up Coffs Coast residents – demand an independent external review into government efficiency at the Coffs Harbour City Council, an external independent review of Council senior staff remuneration and ‘member’s expenses’ and protest any increases in rates until the Coffs Harbour City Council budget transparently aligns with those of well managed adjacent regional local government areas!

And the winner is…

It is almost the time for local residents to consider the vexed question of whom do they want to represent them over the next four years?  To help residents, a review of the some of the major projects debated during the past eighteen months will be presented.  In no particular order the following topics will come under the spotlight:

  1. Purchase of the old Catholic Club site,
  2. Fisherman’s Club,
  3. Tax on 4wds accessing beaches,
  4. Botanic Gardens,
  5. Pioneer Park,
  6. Capital Hill – sale,
  7. Castle Street toilets fiasco,
  8. Coastal Works including Union and contractor issues, rebranding etc,
  9. Transition to Sustainability Project (outcomes?),
  10. Jetty Foreshores,
  11. Jetty Theatre fiasco,
  12. Rate Increase Proposals (including 10 year proposal),
  13. Community consultation,
  14. CBD planning (integration and timeline),
  15. Rally Australia,
  16. Airport (disjointed yet continuous changes),
  17. En Globo Affair,
  18. Management of Fit For The Future (special focus on benefits residents denied by council actions).

This list is not exhaustive – simply it is a recall of the issues where some of the community expressed some degree of dissatisfaction with the way council handled the matter.

A state of constant debate, some would say turmoil, punctuates the orderly running of our council.  Is this a healthy product or merely a distraction?  The question residents need to answer is how much of this bickering could have been avoided?

How many of these issues were foreshadowed in the council strategic plans?  How many issues had recognisable strategic goals and timeframes allocated to them?  When, if ever, where council plans adjusted for “unforeseen” events impacting on the plans?  When did the administration provide realistic reporting of milestone achievements (which were made available to the residents)?  In short, how do the residents know council is working to any co-ordinated and comprehensive “master” plan?

In coming days a score sheet will be developed.  It is for you, the resident, to complete.  The design is primarily to allow the “local” to grade and monitor council performance.  With some many issues to consider your own “personal” review before the election date might be of assistance when it is time to vote.  There is no predetermined pass mark.  A pass is a matter for your personal interpretation.

Believe it or not

ears ago, those of us too old to admit to our age used to read a  daily column in our newspaper called  “RIPLEYS BELIEVE IT OR NOT”  I wonder what Ripley would have to say about the current stated financial position of the Coffs Harbour City Council?

For 2 years Rally Australia has run an event in the Coffs Harbour region.  Apparently last year the Rally generated $13.8 million by way of benefits. If Rally Australia knew the flow on benefits to the region and given the GeneralManager’s membership of the Rally Australia Board, it is a simple matter to justify proposed future expenditure. It is strange that the General Manager did not mention this in the paper put forward to Council seeking advanced payment for the 2017 Rally.

Unfortunately the current Council budget papers do not show any projected income flowing  directly to the council – which no doubt would then flow to the residents.  So is there any projected income or dividend that has a direct correlation to ratepayer expenditure?

It is a year since the the 2015 event and yet Council has not yet passed on all payments to past Sponsors. This reflects on the efficiency of the Council accounting system and management. The accounts should by now be available for community review.  If such action was up to date much of the emotion generated by the recent debate may well have been avoided.

The second matter attracting attention is the operation of the Coastal Works teams. Apparently some $2.4million in income was generated from major work done by contracting out services. This it is said is additional income available to council.

From these observations Coffs Harbour Council must be awash with funds.

But look at the disclosed financial position delivered as part of the process to seek an increase in the  rate levels. There is an unquantified level of arrears  ($70million) for maintenance and repairs to infrastructure. To address the problem the General manager “believe it or not”appeals to the community to agree to a 14% increase in the rate levels over 2 years.  Given the fact the Council “champions” a policy of open and transparent governance why did the general Manager submit an application to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal which spanned 10 years?

Under the Transformation to Sustainability project, the General Manager is actively reducing the work force.  So the Conclusion “believe it or not” is that Council is overstaffed ( but how could you get arrears if this is so?  or the staff are deficient in the skills department. In any event the General Manager seems to be possessed with a magic formula to address the arrears  problem without the need for staff to do the work.

Such is the ability of the General Manager that the surplus staff (after the redundancies) can also be deployed to do specialist work outside Council. Obviously by getting rid of staff the arrears vanish and Council increases income.

Given  these facts why does Council want to impose a tax on vehicles using the beach? Surely the administrative costa would exceed the income, and if there is a huge increase to the income level why worry about such a small sum?




Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, has welcomed moves to engage younger students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects by training future primary schoolteachers as science and maths specialists.Primary teachers are currently trained as generalists in a range of subjects.


From this year, in a NSW first, teaching students from at least three NSW universities can become STEM specialists by electing to study additional maths and science courses.


“This is a great initiative which will help give young students more confidence in maths and science, so they’re better prepared for high school,” Mr Fraser said.


“Employers want workers that are skilled in mathematics and science, so we want to give our students the confidence to study these subjects at their highest possible level.”


The new primary teaching course requirements were developed by the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) in consultation with teachers, teacher educators and the education sector.


“The first group of graduates with a specialisation in maths and science will be eligible to teach in NSW schools from the end of 2017,” Mr Fraser added.


The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government is also rolling out 16 new resources to help improve the teaching of STEM subjects in schools across the state.


The resources include:


Seven new STEM lesson units for K-12, including a ‘coding’ unit which teaches students to use code to choreograph dance and movement;

Eight new Science and Technology activities for K-6, including “Game Plan” where students design, build and test a game based on electrical circuits; and

A guide to support the use of coding as a teaching tool to solve problems within existing subjects.


The NSW Government is also investing $20 million during this term of Government to upgrade 50 science labs in NSW public schools.


Coffs Waste

At long last the problems of uncontrolled feral supermarket trollies has been replaced by a an enlightened proposition ‘C W’.

By way of background it is important to look at the Council book ‘Your Council your community’ otherwise known as the ‘Blue Book’.  Put briefly Council is concerned with the escalation of the arrears in the area of repairs and maintenance.  Currently at $70m.  To overcome the problem Council proposed an increase in the level of rates so that the services that we are used to can continue. Unfortunately this is not good enough because Council has been somewhat REMISS. Who in the right mind, expects the Council to continue to provide services that puts us further in deficit?

The answer is simple – just ask the Council. Increase the income and one way to do this is “to contract” out services to other Councils. Wow, why didn’t someone think of this before now?  Council tendered for a contract to supply services to Grafton Council by undercutting private enterprise tenderers.  The tendered cost was some $200,000 under private enterprise.  Now either private enterprise is remarkably inefficient or Coffs Council is super efficient despite their own arrears problem of $70m.


  1. Is Council overstaffed to the extent that the surplus staff can be redirected to do external work?

2.    Have all the arrears been eliminated? Has Council suddenly completed the backlog of arrears                            or, do you still have potholes in the local roads near you?

3.    Why was it necessary to apply for a special variation to the rates if the arrears no longer exist?

(The Council submission for this variation was for a period of 10 years, so this seems to cancel out the elimination of the arrears.)

4.    Did Council include all the costs associated with the tender proposal in their submission?  In other words is there a proper cost analysis or job card?  Have the Council for instance included employee long service leave and superannuation components  Have adequate allowance been made for the depreciation  for assets, owned by our community, which are to be used for the external work?  If the Council can undercut private enterprise to such an extent why is it that they are unable to apply the same processes to the day to day work in this city?

5.    What proportion of the costs associated with this tender is picked up by local residents?  As employees of our Council we are paying their wages.  Should we expect them to do our work first?

6.    How does this outsourcing fit in with the stated aim of the State Government to provide employment opportunities in regional areas?  Does it not have the opposite effect in that it creates unemployment?

7.    If the arrears have not been extinguished then, who made the strategy to divert resources away from local projects?  Who sanctioned the further escalation of the arrears?  What is the rationale behind such a decision?  Do the residents of this city deserve better treatment?

8.    What is the impact of this work on the Council planning documents, including the 2030 plan?

Community strategic plan, the delivery plan and the budgetary plan?


Note. Councillor Palmer recently resigned







Council agreed to “get with it” and move Coffs Harbour region out of the dark ages on the first of many steps to get to the 21st Century. A spokesperson said today that Council agreed to a major change to the structure of Council. A consultant would be engaged to oversee the creation of a new Division. “The Division of silly ideas”. The planned change to the organisation has many positives. It generates revenue for Council and employment opportunities for local residents.

The spokesperson commented that the system won’t allow for creative revenue raising products to be generated without the need for costing the tedious issues of administration or of considering legal issues. Under the proposed division, submissions for the advancement of the region would be implemented for trial periods (to see how much revenue accrued to Council) and then evaluated. A prime example would be the new 4WD beach access proposal. The “policing of 6 beaches, both day and night, on a daily basis would see an additional 15 or so people getting jobs.

During the initial period it should not be necessary to consider any impact on holidaymakers or other visitors. Groups of voluntary workers would contribute money to Council but would be expected to continue with their voluntary arrangements for beach environment protection.

Fishermen could continue their activities albeit that such activity might need to be monitored by rangers (presumably based in the Deep Sea Fisherman’s Club). Lifeguards would also be charged for accessing beaches for “rescue purposes” although the spokesperson explained that it might be possible to disguise the costs in the budgets via a series of accounting transactions.

The brave new decision follows on from a wealth of silly ideas generated in recent times. The light rail system will be incorporated into the CBD Plan. The City Square will have a monorail section (see artist impression of future landscape) stretching from the St George building to the gravel agent premises. The existing sails will be removed and the area will be tastefully decorated with a multitude of fairy lights. It is hoped that the Bogong moths experience will attract passers-by off the Highway into the thriving cultural heart of Coffs Harbour after dark. This will be of particular interest at Christmas especially for families attending Carols in Brelsford Park. The lights can be admired from afar to avoid to avoid any prospect of vandalism. The opportunity to submit an idea Residents are encouraged to contribute silly ideas to Council. For existing employees it offers the opportunity to submit any idea and be rewarded with a suitable redundancy package.