Myth busting the Cultural and Civic Space

I have been watching with increasing dismay, as the community tears itself in two about a development that should unite us.   I have been involved in this project for a long time, since 2016, as a part of council’s project team.   During this time, I have performed many paid functions for council, between being the industry representative for architecture, general dogsbody and spokesman, to community consultant.   I have stood in shopping centres, run focus groups and sorted through thousands of pieces of online community feedback during this time.   I have remained silent due to being paid by council to perform these services, however considering this time is at an end and as I don’t expect to be further paid by council for this work, I feel it is imperative to speak out.

There is so much misinformation about this building and it’s process, that I feel it useful to debunk the myths systematically.

Myth 1 – We don’t need it (or, we need a small addition to the library, that libraries are irrelevant, galleries don’t drive tourism etc)

Libraries have never been more relevant.    Their diverse range of delivered educational programs have delivered statistically significant improvements in secondary school completion, tertiary entry and youth employment across the state, country and the world.    Our library is the 5th worst in the state (mainly due to lack of space to deliver programs and services).   In correlation, we score very poorly in our LGA for those metrics, for example the lowest education participation rate of any local government area on the North Coast and double the youth unemployment rate.   We should be championing anything that improves our residents’ prospects.

We have the second smallest gallery in NSW (after Balranald).   A better regional example, after building a new gallery in 2016, Albury gallery experienced a 6 fold increase in visitation compared to the previous gallery in their town hall.   Needless to say, these people all have to eat and sleep somewhere, bumping up the local economy.   This signature piece of cultural infrastructure rounds out the appeal of Coffs Harbour as a destination to move to from the various urban centres around Australia.

Myth 2 – It costs too much (we won’t be able to deliver services, it’ll send the council bankrupt, it’s the new glasshouse, it can be built cheaper)

The idea that it is possible to build a library or gallery that is vaguely fit for purpose for $1900/sqm is ludicrous.  It’s not a base build office building or a shed, and no quantity surveyor or estimator would sign off on that figure for a cultural building.   The $4000/sqm - $6000/sqm is normal for this kind of project and won’t change with any kind of study or report.

State government has a debt service ratio limit of 20% for local council.  Ours is a measly 0.79%.   Even borrowing all the $46m this would peak the debt ratio at – wait for it – a massive 1.66%.   So the vague speculations that we will stop building roads or footpaths don’t stand up to scrutiny – in fact there is scope to build other large projects if it can be demonstrated as necessary.  There is a committed 10 year delivery plan for other infrastructure in place irrespective of the outcome of this project.  

The $76m should not be a shock to anyone, as it’s been on the table for a year, and been sent out in as many communication channels as the council has access to.

Coffs Harbour borrowed $400m (in year 2000 dollars) to build a water system, sewer system and international stadium.  Were there the same number of protests in 1999?   Clearly the LGA was able to continue delivering services while paying off that debt.

If you feel a lack of facilities or services, lobby your local councillors but leave this project out of it.

Myth 3 – The council staff / chambers should not be a part of the development (this is just council feathering their own nest etc)

To renovate the council chambers to the same standards, the estimated cost (not my opinion, independently verified by quantity surveyors) was $22m.   I was at one stage a few years ago pushing for this option, until I realised it made no economic sense.   We also investigated commercial space, educational space, accommodation and other ideas.   None made as much commercial sense as selling the assets and shifting the council.

The sale of the existing council assets frees up developable land in the CBD, moving the staff makes the council more efficient, reduces overall floor space allocated to council offices, creates another flat floor community space and is cash positive for the development compared to any other scenario (again by independent QS).   Any objections to this plan fall short of credibility.

Myth 4 – Parking will be a problem (we should build it out of town, no-one will park because no-one will come etc)

Leaving aside that the most commercially successful centre in the LGA is the one with the least parking (Sawtell), many independent surveys have shown that the parking vacancy in the CBD other than direct on street is high.   17% in Castle Street multi-storey during peak loads, for example.   In the CBD masterplan committee (I am the chair, an unpaid position) we are working on projects that will make availability more visible to dispel this myth.

If you make places pleasant for pedestrians, people want to walk around there, spending money and enjoying themselves as they go.   If you make places good for cars, people want to drive through them and past them.   The latter is clearly bad for the CBD and our city.

Myth 5 – It should be a performance centre (or the civic centre, or a theatre in the round, or a flat floor, or like the TREC, or ……..)

As the title suggests, if you ask 5 people what Coffs Harbour needs in a performance centre, you get 5 different answers.   Part of the reason that this project exists as it does, is that the need and methodology to deliver it is so clear.   The business case for a performing arts centre is being investigated in a separate project, to a certain degree put on hold due to this project as a ‘test bed’ for what Coffs Harbour can accomplish when meeting a clearly demonstrated need.

I bemoan the loss of our civic centre too, and I believe Coffs Harbour needs better performance venues.   The options list is long, including an upgraded D-Block theatre (at the CHEC) or project at the showground.   Added to this the Cex club plans to do just such a theatre in the CBD, and council’s duplication would seem to be a waste of money.   If you believe we need a civic centre replacement  (as I do) then let’s build this centre, and lobby for the next one.   As per above we can clearly afford it.

Myth 6 – The development should be somewhere else (most often, city hill).

Most regional centres that build facilities out of the CBD spend most of their advertising dollars trying to entice people to move out of the dense zones of activity and to where the building is.

The CBD is good for this building, and this building is good for the CBD.   It gives the CBD a cultural heart, a reason for being other than business and alcohol, and paves the way for a highway free, integrated and rich centre for Coffs Harbour to be proud of.   Cultural facilities in town centres encourage accommodation to develop, where people work and shop locally.   Having a vibrant city heart will also encourage school leavers to stick around and plug the decreasing low 20s population hole that we are developing.

In Conclusion

We need it, we can afford it, and it’s in a good spot.   Let’s get on and build it.

Oliver Gee



g2's Phones Not Working- Sorry!

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If you’ve been having trouble reaching g2 architects this week you are not alone!

Due to technical difficulties at Telstra, g2 has been unable to receive incoming calls from any Telstra phone lines.

If you are trying to get in contact with the g2 office, please call our mobiles directly, or email as follows:

Ann Mobile: 0411 737 505

Oliver Mobile: 0411 737 466


We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope to have the issue rectified soon.

g2's Ann and Oliver in AIA's Architecture Bulletin

Clearly, there are some days when you flick through an architecture publication and see very familiar faces smiling back.

g2’s Ann and Oliver Gee were recently featured in AIA’s Regional Architecture Bulletin.

Ann and Oliver were some of the many architects and designers to attend the recent Country Division Conference Rethink, Recalibrate and Regenerate.

As emcee of the awards night, a juror on the NSW Country Division Jury Panel, and as a member of the AIA Country Division Committee, g2’s Oliver Gee was kept particularly busy on the night.

We are proud of Oliver and Ann for their ongoing active participation in the architecture sphere.

g2 Sponsor "New Year, New Work" Exhibition at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery


g2’s Ann and Alan Gee with local Artist Jeramie Scahill and his sculptural work “Plumb Bob”

As proud proponents of the Arts and the local community g2 were proud to sponsor local artist Jeramie Scahill and his work “Plumb Bob” in the recent New Year, New Work exhibition at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery. Jeramie’s work utilizes the ancient Japanese method of Shou Sugi Ban which involves burning wood to bring out the natural grain and texture.

Ann and Alan from g2 architects were pleased to attend the opening night of the New Year, New Work exhibition last Friday the 1st February which proved to be a fantastic and vibrant event. The exhibition including Jeramie’s “Plumb Bob” will be open at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery until the 2nd March 2019.

g2 hopes many members of the Coffs Harbour community will have an opportunity to enjoy the works.

g2 First Aid on Parade!

Ann, Oliver and Elizabeth Gee have just attained their First Aid Qualifications with St Johns Ambulance.

At g2 we believe that first Aid knowledge is really important to have at home, on site and in the workplace.

(We just hope we don’t have much cause to test out our newly acquired skills in 2019!)

Rotarians Learn about the Proposed Library Gallery with g2 and CHCC

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Coffs Harbour Daybreak Rotary hosted Oliver from g2 architects and Sian from Coffs Harbour City Council to learn more about the new Library Gallery Project for the Coffs CBD.

The New Library Gallery Project has undergone Community Consultation processes and is progressing.

To find about more about the new Library and Gallery Cultural and Civic Space visit

Some Enchanted Evening at Conservatorium Theatre Opening

The Gee majors and Gee minors were honored to attend the Opening of the Conservatorium Theatre.

G2 architects have been involved in the Conservatorium project for many years now, with Ann being the longest serving board member on the Conservatorium Board.

Ann was engaged in the late 2000’s to renovate a disused nightclub that had been purchased by a generous donation from the Hogbin family. The resulting project was staged, as funds have become available and has just recently been completed. Stage 1 was administration and rehearsal / teaching rooms, and stage 2 was a 190 seat theatre, bio box, and stage.

The completed Theatre provides an outstanding venue for performance in the Coffs Harbour region and is a wonderful asset for the Conservatorium and it’s students.

g2's Oliver Gee on 2018 NSW Country Division Jury Panel


g2 sends congratulations to our very own Oliver Gee who was selected to sit on the Jury Panel for the Australian Institute of Architecture’s 2018 NSW Country Division Awards.

g2 acknowledges the significance of his selection as an exciting progression in Oliver’s professional development and as a valuable contribution to the Institute and the culture of regional architecture.

Well done Oliver!

AIA Awards Night Antics


Ann and Oliver Gee were pleased to attend the AIA NSW Country Division Architecture Awards as part of the Regional Conference held in the Hunter Valley this month.

Oliver put his verbosity (and good humour) to use as Master of Ceremonies for the event.

g2 sends their congratulations to all award recipients and participants involved.

A fantastic night was had by all!

g2 Rethink, Re-calibrate and Regenerate at the 2018 NSW Regional Conference

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It was ‘CPD asap for g2’ earlier this month with Ann and Oliver attending the Institute’s NSW Regional Conference in the Hunter Valley.

The Australian Institute of Architects’ annual Conference provides regional architects with a great opportunity to network and develop their skills.

This years conference explored ideas of architectural practice and output in a modern, fast-paced, technologically explosive world.

Speakers included: Kerstin Thompson; Matthew Hinds & Poppy Taylor; Brent Dunn & Katharina Hendel; Ashley Dunn & Lee Hillam; Ben Edwards; Bill McCorkell; Harley Graham; Emma Guthrey; Dr Christ Tucker; and Chris Gilbert, Chris Haddad, Jon Kaitler, & Josh FitzGerald from Archier.

Ann and Oliver have returned with minds as over-full as their schedules, and look forward to implementing their new learning in their own professional practice at the g2 office.

g2's Scarlett on Rotary Exchange in DENMARK


For the past 52 days g2 has been floundering in the absence of our brilliant architectural graduate Scarlett.

Scarlett has been participating in a Rotary Exchange Program that has seen her and several other regional professionals hosted throughout Denmark and Norway on a cultural education tour.

Scarlett has been given the opportunity to visit remarkable examples of architecture from the contemporary Wave by Henning Larsen Architects to the ancient Fantoft Stave Church in Norway.

Everyone at the g2 office wishes Scarlett continued happy travels, and we look forward to benefiting from her increased experience on her return.

HIA Finalist! Custom Built Home $1,000,001 to $2,500,000


g2 architects were thrilled to be part of the team identified as Finalists at the HIA Northern NSW Awards.

The Toscan Group Pty Ltd. in conjunction with g2 architects and clients Ana and Miguel were finalists for HIA Northern NSW Best Custom Built Home $1,000,001 to $2,500,000.

g2 architects sends a huge congratulations to all contributors, and to Rob from Toscan Homes for a stunning level of workmanship in their completion of g2’s Hamptons Style House.

A stunning result from a dedicated team. Well done!

HIA Winner!!! Best Alterations and Additions under $400,000

Kath and Paul from Paul Newton Constructions (left) Ann Gee from g2 architects (middle) and homeowners Anthony and Kerrie Hall (right), winners of Best Alterations and Additions under $400,000 Northern NSW HIA Award.

Kath and Paul from Paul Newton Constructions (left) Ann Gee from g2 architects (middle) and homeowners Anthony and Kerrie Hall (right), winners of Best Alterations and Additions under $400,000 Northern NSW HIA Award.

g2 architects were thrilled to be part of the winning team at the HIA Awards on Saturday Night.

Paul Newton Constructions in conjunction with g2 architects and clients Tony and Kerrie Hall were awarded HIA Northern NSW Best Alterations and Additions Under $400,000.

g2 architects sends a huge congratulations to all contributors, and to our lovely Ann Gee for her skillful and sensitive architectural design for the restoration and rehabilitation of this Former Jetty Police Station heritage residence.

A stunning result from a dedicated team. Well done!

g2 architects like to THINK BRICK

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g2 architects were proud to enter the gorgeous permeable paving featured in our Love Shack project for the 2018 Think Brick Awards. Congratulations to adbri masonry, Dragonfly Landscapes, Jay Webber, and Redbelly for a truly fantastic result!

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The Love Shacks / Beach Shacks project consists of two holiday cottages, and a main residence situated in the beachside village of Sawtell, Northern NSW.

Designed to provide the clients with uncompromising luxury and privacy in their own home, while incorporating two additional holiday-let cottages for income, this project required architectural and technological ingenuity. On a 790sqm site underpinned by dunes, comfortably fitting three discrete residences that would perform well in a sub-tropical climate was a challenge.

Many interesting technologies were employed in this build, particularly the permeable paving by adbri masonry. Permeable paving directed storm water back into the aquifer, reducing the size of the retention pit and minimizing runoff. The pavers are functional allowing drainage into the dune while providing the necessary rigidity for driveways and pathways. Adbri’s permeable pavers add character consistent with a beach aesthetic and have been used in the paving of the outdoor shower- ready for a post-swim rinse.

The appeal of the Beach Shacks speaks to the dedication of the project team- architectural design by g2 architects, construction by Jay Webber, landscape design by Redbelly and Dragonfly Landscapes, a vision for the cottages nurtured by wonderful clients, and permeable paving by adbri masonry.  

g2 architects are Mental for Mentally Healthy Workplaces

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Who knew that mental health in the workplace has a HUGE impact on business productivity; the mental health of employees AND their children; is as important to the average employee as WAGES; and is just as critical for Workplace Health and Safety as physical health?… Well now we do!

Ann, Oliver and Liz from g2 architects Pty. Ltd. participated in a fantastic Mentally Healthy Workplaces Workshop at Coffs Cex yesterday. We look forward to implementing our learning here at g2, as well as advocating for good mental health in our surrounding community.

So from us here at g2, we are asking you: