Councillors reject Coffs Harbour Museum sale

The sale of the heritage listed Coffs Harbour Museum has been saved for now, with five councillors voting against the sale at last week’s Council meeting. Photo: Emma Darbin.

 

THE sale of the heritage listed Coffs Harbour Museum was rejected by Coffs Harbour City councillors at Council’s recent ordinary meeting on Thursday, 8 October.

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The sale of the museum was voted against by councillors five votes to two with Cr Michael Adendorff and Cr George Cecato voting for the museum sale, and Cr Paul Amos, Cr John Arkan, Cr Denise Knight, Cr Sally Townley and Cr Keith Rhodes all voting against the sale of the museum.

Cr Tegan Swan was absent from the Council meeting due to a family funeral.

Council staff had recommended the museum on Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour, be sold for $950,000.

The $950,000 offered for the purchase of the museum was within five percent of a recent independent valuation of the property commissioned by Council.

As part of the sale, Council was to continue to occupy the building and enter into a three year lease of the rental property at a rental price of $60,500 a year.

Council had resolved in May and again in August to sell the museum building to help fund the proposed $76.5 million Cultural and Civic Space project in Gordon Street, Coffs Harbour.

The Museum building, which is the site of Coffs Harbour’s former police station and courthouse, is listed as an item of significant Local Heritage under the provisions of Coffs Harbour LEP 2013.

Cr Adendorff described the potential sale of the Museum as a “good outcome”, and stressed how unsuitable the current property was for housing a museum.

“I’m very pleased that Council is now in a position where it’s able to dispose of this property because I’ve never believed it’s suited for that purpose,” Cr Adendorff said.

“Years ago when it sold frankly I couldn’t believe that Council would buy it for that purpose.

“I don’t believe we should ever have brought this property.”

Cr Townley agreed that the current Museum building was not the “most functional” site for the Museum, and questioned the strength of the heritage significance of the building.

“We know that it’s got a heritage listing under our LEP, but we also know that heritage listing is not a hard and fast instrument,” Cr Townley said.

“It’s not actually a barrier to demolition, it’s not a barrier to removal of that building.

“If the building is sold into private hands we don’t have control over what happens after that.”

Cr Rhodes supported saving the historic property from sale.

“That particular building up there, it’s iconic, it’s unique, it’s our first courthouse and police station,” Cr Rhodes stressed.

“I class the current Museum site as a part of our history of our town.

“History is what we will give away if we accept this undervalued offer.”

Cr Rhodes encouraged other councillors to keep the Museum in Council ownership and allow the Council of the day to make decisions about what will happen to it as the “Council of the day would be representative of the community”.

Cr Knight who has always advocated for the sale of the Museum to help fund the proposed Cultural and Civic Space Project discussed her concern over selling the heritage listed building.

“I have always advocated to sell these buildings but I am a little bit concerned that this building itself is part of our history, and we don’t have a lot of history,” Cr Knight said.

“That sort of architecture you just don’t get anymore.”

Cr Arkan spoke at the meeting about the economics of not selling the museum.

“From day one in regards to selling Council assets, I’ve always advocated that we don’t,” Cr Arkan said.

“In 20, 30, 50 years down the track you are not going to find large parcels of land so close to everything in Coffs Harbour.

“Economically, we really can’t afford to be selling assets that are owned by the City.”

Cr Cecato said if Council chose to keep the Museum it would then have to come up with another million dollars as an extra loan to finance the Cultural and Civic Space project.

“This particular building was part of a bigger resolution,” Cr Cecato said.

“I would like the Cultural and Civic Space building built.”

The Museum property has been owned by Council since 2010 when it was originally purchased, and has operated as Coffs Harbour Museum ever since.

 

By Emma DARBIN

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