Coffs Harbour City Council conflict of interest causes Airport Enterprise Park Development debate

The sale and potential rezoning of land at Coffs Harbour’s Airport Enterprise Park Development caused much debate at Council’s latest ordinary meeting.


THE potential rezoning and sale of land at Coffs Harbour’s Airport Enterprise Park Development and a Coffs Harbour City Council conflict of interest regarding the development was hotly debated at Council’s latest meeting on Thursday, 13 August.

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A report on an amended Airport Enterprise Development Probity Plan was brought before Council at the recent meeting.

The plan was amended due to Council being both the developer (Airport Development Group) and planning consent authority for the Airport Enterprise Park Development at Airport Drive, Coffs Harbour.

The Airport Development Group consists of Council’s Business Services Director, Coffs Harbour City Airport Manager, and Airport Commercial and Compliance Manager.

Council is concerned about the potential conflict of being the owner of the Airport Enterprise Park and the planning proposal authority.

The Airport Enterprise Probity Plan is for the staged development of the Airport Enterprise Park on land attached to Coffs Harbour Airport, both of which are owned and managed by Coffs Harbour City Council.

The objective of the Probity Plan is to ensure the overall integrity of the Airport Development is in accordance with all relevant Council and Local Government legislation, policies, procedures and guidelines.

An independent law firm found the rezoning of the Airport Enterprise Park could be considered of regional environmental planning significance, and stated that the Minister for Planning had the power to direct the Northern Regional Planning Panel to be the planning proposal authority.

In 2017, the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel granted development consent to the proposed demolition, earthworks and subdivision of land into 98 lots and one residential lot over a total area of approximately 43 hectares.

This land was identified for further light and heavy industry, technology and education, and commercial and aviation.

Council is now considering the desired scope and nature of the Airport Development and is exploring market options.

Council is also considering a potential request to amend the Coffs Harbour Local Environmental Plan 2013 to rezone the Airport Enterprise Park from SP1 Special Activities-Air Transport Facility.

At Council’s recent ordinary meeting, Cr Sally Townley expressed her discomfort about endorsing the amended Airport Enterprise Park Development Probity Plan while Council was currently receiving financial offers for the site.

“It’s making us look like a rezoning could be linked to a financial outcome which we don’t know yet,” Cr Townley stressed.

However, Cr Townley agreed the existing zoning at the airport was “quite restrictive”.

“The current zoning precludes a lot of activities,” Cr Townley said.

“There has always been a stated intent that rezoning of that land is desirable.”

Cr George Cecato called on fellow councillors to remove themselves from the planning proposal and put it in the hands of the Minister for Planning.

“It removes the thing that all night we’ve been talking about, transparency,” Cr Cecato said.

Following considerable deliberation, Council resolved to defer consideration of the Airport Enterprise Development Probity Plan until binding bids for the Enterprise Park have been received and assessed.

Council also agreed to note that the amended Airport Park Development Probity Plan would not adequately address the issue of conflict of interest as it cannot be retrospectively applied to lease negotiations to date.

Council also noted that there was no resolved position of Council with respect to a proposed rezoning, and noted there was currently no publicly available detail as to what the proposed rezoning of the site would be.

Council is currently finalising a tender process for the lease of the Airport.

The outcomes of the tender will go before Council for final determination on 28 August.



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