Waterfront ‘next steps’ outside administrator’s remit


More than 70% of the website visitors were unresponsive to the project or gave it the thumbs down so how the council can now say there is overwhelming support is beyond belief.

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Moves by Central Coast Council to modify the concept plans for the privatisation and development of the Gosford waterfront have been described as “outrageous” and a waste of money by the Gosford Waterfront Alliance but the Minister for the Central Coast says the waterfront is an important part of Gosford’s future.

Impression of Gosford Waterfront revitalisation
An artist’s impression of the Gosford Waterfront concept plan to be revised

By Jacquelene Pearson

A “stakeholder update” has been emailed from Central Coast Council to those who had taken part in the consultation in response to an exhibited Gosford waterfront concept plan between October and December 2022.

The stakeholder update said the concept plan had received “strong support from the community and the business sector to ‘just get on with it’.”

It said the campaign commitment from NSW Labor, to spend an initial $8.5 million on further studies, had also been confirmed since the election.

Council informed those who received the update that it will be modifying the original design drawings to reflect feedback made during the consultation phase. According to the council, the feedback included:

  1. Reduce visual impacts from Gosford City and Industree Group Stadium to Brisbane Water where possible.
  2. Provide an alternative public ferry wharf location closer to the foreshore.
  3. Improve boat and ferry access to the marina and public boat ramp. 
  4. Improve pedestrian access across the Central Coast Highway.
  5. Incorporate more green space within the waterfront development. 

Joseph Halwagy, Chair of the Gosford Waterfront Alliance, said the stakeholder update was an affront to every honest resident and ratepayer on the Central Coast.

“For starters, what we were told were very early ‘concept plans’ and artists’ renders are now designs, suggesting this whole half-a-billion dollar circus is much further along that the community has been told,” Mr Halwagy said.

“Then there is the ongoing misrepresentation of the feedback given to the council by the community.

“There is a lack of available numerical figures to demonstrate either wide engagement with or strong support for this very expensive Gosford waterfront project.

“Council’s own data from the concept plan consultation showed 6,425 web visitors familiarising themselves with this project via the interactive concept plan website.

“That was less than 2% of the 330,000 inhabitants of this region.

“In spite of this, less than 30% of the website visitors gave it the thumbs up and, even then, it would be a grave error to think a thumbs up was a global approval of the project.

“More than 70% of the website visitors were unresponsive to the project or gave it the thumbs down so how the council can now say there is overwhelming support is beyond belief.

“Those neutral voices were included as supporters in the council’s alleged 59% public support figure.

“At best that is creative marketing and, at worst, misrepresentation that is blatantly inconsistent with the council’s pledge of honesty and transparency with its residents and rate payers.

“No responsible administration of a publicly listed corporation would proceed investing shareholders’ funds on a costly liability when a market research survey of a small fraction of its potential customers showed that more than 70% were unresponsive or disengaged,” Mr Halwagy said.

The council’s update said the next phase would be completion of “a series of technical studies to inform development of a detailed waterfront masterplan. These include: environmental/ biodiversity studies

geotechnical and hydrological studies; flooding and coastal hazard analysis; transport and pedestrian investigation; full site survey; investigation of infrastructure services.”

Mr Halwagy said the whole approach being taken to the Gosford waterfront contradicted the work of the Government Architect and would do nothing to revitalise the CBD.

“There is a lack of any detailed evidence that this very expensive Gosford waterfront project will have any positive flow on effect of revitalising the currently almost dead Gosford city business CBD. If the council has such evidence, why hasn’t the Council implemented such strategies at the Entrance’s waterfront where a significant proportion of the Entrance business shops are either struggling or permanently closed and left derelict?”

Mr Halwagy said it was opportunistic and cynical of the Central Coast Council to boast of the Central Coast Mariners’ success and the FIFA Women’s World Cup when the administration had done “next to nothing” to promote either the Mariners’ grand final victory or the hosting of the women’s national teams from England and Germany on the Coast during the world cup.

“If a revised waterfront would really anchor the revitalization of the Gosford CBD then why was that not the direction of the government architect in 2018?” Mr Halwagy asked.
“The community knows that this is really about privatization of public land and shutting the general public out of a large area of the waterfront,” he said.

Central Coast Council said “as part of the next steps Council will be engaging with key NSW Government stakeholders to support a whole of government approach to development of the waterfront masterplan and coordinated progress towards delivery. 

“Council has committed some early funding to take the next step, however this is not a project Council will deliver. Council is doing the early work, but the intention is to hand this project over to an experienced Government agency to take the lead as soon as practicable.”

Mr Halwagy said the Gosford Waterfront Alliance contends that any master planning of the waterfront should wait until after the next Central Coast Council election.

“Our council was placed under administration in 2020 specifically to get the finances in order. How spending money on studies for a waterfront privatization that may never come to fruition is the responsible use of our finances I cannot fathom.

“This project falls way outside the remit of the current Coalition-appointed administrator. He is overstepping his mark and he should tell his CEO to put this project on ice until we have elected councillors.
“On behalf of residents and rate payers, this Council continues to carry total debts of around $300 million at a time of escalating inflation, interest rate, basic service delivery costs, and the urgent need for major roads and infrastructure upgrades.

“Why is this council hell bent on exposing residents and rate payers to further financial risks and wasting over $10 million ($8.5m from NSW Government and $2.2m from council funds) a project which has considerable ecological, environmental and economic uncertainties, and no guarantee of future State Government backing?”

Minister for the Central Coast and Member for Wyong, David Harris said: “The Minns Labor Government will deliver on its election commitment to fund a feasibility study.”

“Discussion is ongoing in regard to the overall project structure as the new government has only been in place for three months and there are several election commitments we are working on concurrently in the context of a very tight September budget.

“Gosford is beginning to flourish with some long awaited building projects, the University development, discussions ongoing about TAFE and affordable housing opportunities-with the waterfront a very important part of that overall context,” Minister Harris said.

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