An open letter to Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club Limited members
and to the Coffs Harbour community.
Dear members
Last week the Board of the Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club Ltd. resolved
not to oppose the liquidation of the Club.
This spells the end of 52 years history of this community based non-profit
organisation within our great community. The Club is closed and ultimately the
premises will revert to the ownership of the Coffs Coast State Park Trust with
Coffs Harbour City Council as its Corporate Managers.
Liquidation is now, and has always been, the worst possible outcome for all
In the end we just ran out of time and although, in conjunction with the
Administrator, we had laid out a course of action that we were working toward,
the Administrator, with no advance notice took another path and forced the Club
into liquidation.
The fact that the Club has struggled financially for a number of years is a matter
of public record. When I accepted the role as President just over two years ago,
I undertook on behalf of the Board of Directors, to do everything I could to save
the Club. The Administrators concluded in their investigations that the Board
made the appropriate decision at the right time when putting the Club into
voluntary administration in April last year. However, we have now reached the
point where all that could be done has been done and unfortunately it was not
enough in the period of available time.
The Club is located on public land that forms part of the Coffs Coast State Park.
The Park is managed by the Coffs Coast State Park Trust with Coffs Coast City
Council as its Corporate Manager. A very important function of the Council is to
strive for the economic growth and prosperity of its community. That may be
performed by supporting existing significant businesses not only to survive but
to grow and also to attract new desirable businesses.
For whatever reason, be it perceived conflict, ignorance, ineptness or otherwise,
the Council failed in that function so far as the Club is concerned.
Given the significance of the Club to the community and to the history and
culture of this area, the Council did not do as much as it could have done and
should have done to assist in saving it. Indeed at critical times and
notwithstanding a recorded decision of the elected Council, elements of it
seemingly continued to be downright obstructionist and working to an agenda
which did not include the Club remaining on the site which it occupied and
developed for over 52 years.
Councillors are elected by the community and we do not condone the vilification
of individual Councillors that has occurred in some in some forums in relation to
this matter. The correct time and place to vent your thoughts on the
performance of our Councillors is on 10 September at the local government
elections and I encourage all members and all people who love recreational
fishing and who loved our Club to make your own mind up about Councils
performance in relation to this matter and vote accordingly.
With regard to the Minister for Lands and his advisors, whether it be a misguided
fear of potential repercussions through ICAC, indifference to the importance of
the Club to our community or, as I suspect, an ulterior idea or even a plan with
some momentum for an alternative use of the site, the Minister or his delegate
on advice, did not at any material time have any intention of approving direct
negotiations for an extension of the current lease for a further 10 years beyond
the expiry of the current lease in 2021. Yet to his disgrace he failed to say so
and allowed the suffering to continue.
Some have called for an investigation into matters surrounding the local and
state government actions in relation our Club and if the community will is
present for it to happen then I am sure this will happen.
Like me you no doubt feel great sadness, anger, and frustration. However I
encourage our members to look to the future and reorganise yourselves as the
founders of our great Club did 52 years ago. I also encourage you to remember
the good times and not just the pain you feel at this difficult time. Recreational
fishing and the culture surrounding it is an integral part of this community. The
closure of the Club does not detract from the place it holds in the social and
economic importance of our Coffs Coast community.
Many millions of dollars worth of development on the site has been paid for by
our members, who are an important part of this community including our
founding families who raised funds for extensions by way of sausage sizzles and
raffles and a thousand other ways to help build a club that really was not for
profit built by the community for the community..
The site has been occupied for 52 years by passionate members of this
community who are an asset to this community and who deserve the
consideration of their elected representatives. Our Club including our members
have played an important role in this community’s history and I encourage
council to ensure they recognise this in their dealings in relation to the site
moving forward.
We publicly thank the North Coast Hotel Group, a successful local business
organisation, who backed your Club all the way, but were always open and
honest about the fact that they could not support the Club without an extension
of our lease on the site beyond 2021.
Putting the issue of the Club being in administration aside for the moment, for
the past 6 months, with the assistance of the North Coast Hotel Group and new
direction the Club has enjoyed the successes of operating as a fully functioning
Club. Each and every week saw the Club inundated with a large customer base
to enjoy various events, meals and functions. There was a real sense of moving
forward. There has been a solution on the table all long and the club was poised
to launch into a new future which would have seen creditors paid and the Club
given a fantastic facelift that aligned with its location yet for whatever reason,
which we may or may not see in the future, has been disallowed.
It would be wrong not to mention the efforts of our local member Andrew Fraser
MP who has worked tirelessly in support of our Club for many many years, and
in this matter, he supported us in the face of the non-performance of his own
government and we thank Andrew for his efforts.
We acknowledge the efforts of our wonderful staff and so many dedicated
volunteers over so many years. Their efforts deserve not to be forgotten.
We also acknowledge the service of the many elected Club Directors who have
given so much over so long. In particular I thank the Directors who have served
during my Chairmanship as they have had to make some of the hardest
decisions in the toughest time in the Club’s history. People are often surprised
when you remind them that Clubs like ours are community based non-profit
organisations and that Club Directors serve on a voluntary basis and receive no
financial reward. For this reason I see them as giants among the leaders in our
Coffs is known around the world as one of Australia’s great recreational fishing
destinations and this has not changed with the closure of the Club. Please look
to the future and I encourage you all to dream and work toward a better future
for recreational fishing in Coffs.
But for now……… I’m going fishing.
WR (Bill) Mabey
Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club Ltd