City Of Coffs Harbour seeks compulsory acquisition of Jetty Foreshores land

The City submitted a formal offer to NSW Minister for Lands and Property Steve Kamper in November to buy the land, which he rejected.

CITY Of Coffs Harbour Councillors voted to pursue the compulsory acquisition of two state-owned blocks of land at the Jetty Foreshores at the Council meeting on February 8.

“We have decided to take this path as the City believes it is vital to retain the land in public ownership for the benefit of the community,” City of Coffs Harbour Mayor Cr Paul Amos said.

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The City’s decision authorises General Manager Natalia Cowley to make an application to Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig and NSW Governor Margaret Beazley for approval to compulsorily acquire the land.

Since the State Government announced initial plans for the redevelopment of the Jetty Foreshores in 2020, community opinion has been divided.

More recently, the City of Coffs Harbour (Council) and the State Government have been engaged in a tug of war over the Jetty Foreshores land, with Council arguing their way forward does not involve the sale of waterfront land to private developers.

The City submitted a formal offer to NSW Minister for Lands and Property Steve Kamper in November to buy the land.

A fortnight ago, Mr Kamper rejected the $6.7 million bid to purchase the state-owned blocks known as Lot 11 DP 843870 and Lot 10 DP 1284099.

The offer included two City-owned blocks of land in the CBD, valued at $2.15 million, where zoning allows builds of up to fourteen-storeys, with Council arguing these blocks could have been used by the State to boost local stock of affordable housing.

The City says the offer was a generous one, given the land was transferred from Transport for NSW to Property and Development NSW for $2.2m on October 31.

The offer being made was the compulsory first step towards pursuing compulsory acquisition.

In rejecting the offer, the NSW Government reasoned that the purchase proposal would not stimulate the regional economy, provide diverse housing options to address the housing crisis, or improve regional tourism.

“It does not present a unique opportunity or create significant value for the State,” Minister for Lands and Property Steve Kamper wrote in his rejection letter to the City.

Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce President Ray Smith was supportive of the Government’s take on the situation.

He wrote to Mayor Paul Amos prior to last week’s Council meeting, saying, “The community was engaged in one of the largest consultation processes this City has seen and they overwhelmingly supported the Jetty Foreshores masterplan as presented by the State Government.

“At no stage has the community said they only want open public space on the railway land.

“A majority supported built form in this area with accommodation, retail and hospitality activations all supported,” Mr Smith said.

Member for Coffs Harbour Gumesh Singh agrees.

“We don’t know what the Council intends to do with the land should they buy it,” he said.

“There is no resolved issue or plan and with the Council’s overall lack of planning, the process is likely to end up failing.

“The resources being spent on this futile exercise could have been spent elsewhere,” Mr Singh said of the compulsory acquisition process.

Mayor Amos, needless to say, has a different view.

“The state’s model for the land would see some of it carved off for private residential development, and given the prized waterfront nature of the location, there is no way that could be seen as affordable housing.”

City of Coffs Harbour Councillor Tony Judge also weighed in, highlighting that Labor had committed to keeping the land in public hands prior to the last state election.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the Minister has backflipped on the Government’s commitment,” Mr Judge said.

“It is even more disappointing that a government with a stated commitment to affordable housing would turn down an opportunity to potentially build more than 50 centrally located affordable apartments in the Coffs Harbour CBD, and instead has chosen to proceed with high-end, high-priced apartments on scarce waterfront land.

“The vast majority of people in Coffs will never be able to afford those apartments.

“More modest apartments in the CBD could have made a real difference to the housing crisis in our region.

“The decision to build residential so close to the harbour flies in the face of more than 20 years of efforts by both sides of politics to stop locking up waterside land in housing, so you would have to question the wisdom of building in that particular location with the growing threat of rising sea levels and extreme weather events.”

Coffs Harbour resident Bruce Weir has been advocating against the State Government’s redevelopment plans since the day they were announced.

“The City of Coffs Harbour offers the Government three times the amount, plus two blocks of land in the City Centre which can be fourteen-storeys each for their pet project,” Mr Weir said.

“What better position for ‘affordable housing’ would there be in Coffs Harbour than the City Centre, where people have access to nearly everything they need within walking distance?

“Yet the Government would have us believe that it is far better to put affordable housing at the Jetty.

“You would have to be joking!”

At last Thursday’s Council meeting, Councillors Amos, Cassell, Judge, Townley and Wolgamot voted for the motion to pursue the compulsory acquisition, with Councillors Cecato, Pryce, Sechi and Swan voting against.

By Andrew VIVIAN

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