NOT HAPPY: Steve Gooley is pleading with the council to not go ahead with the Civic and Cultural Space.
NOT HAPPY: Steve Gooley is pleading with the council to not go ahead with the Civic and Cultural Space. trevor veale

Gooley takes aim at council and slams proposed civic space

PROMINENT Coffs Harbour businessman Steve Gooley has come out swinging against the proposed Cultural and Civic Space, saying it will cripple the council and the Coffs Harbour community for decades.

Mr Gooley, who is the General Manager of the Bachrach Naumburger Group, said the councillors basically can't go back after making a decision on Thursday night.

He said the project is one of the largest building projects undertaken by the council which will have very long term ramifications.

"The entire project and the process around it is poorly thought out. It's going to get them in big financial trouble for decades," Mr Gooley said.

"What I and other business people are worried about is they'll be carrying an enormous debt to something that's not going to be producing any income.

"In fact the debt burden will cost council in excess of $3 million per annum just to pay for the debt interest.

"The State and Federal Governments have shown zero interest in assisting with funding this project."

Mr Gooley believes the eight figure sum of money council want to invest into the space can be utilised better elsewhere.

"I know council makes plenty of decisions around investing based on a range of reasoning not related just to income producing," he said.

"They have to consider social and community needs. $75 million can fund a lot of projects in this city. Are these really our priorities?

"A lot of people say to me we need a performance centre like Port Macquarie. I want to make it crystal clear; we do not get a performance centre. Nothing of the sort.

"Coffs will get a library, museum, gallery and offices for council staff."


Coffs Harbour City Council has today released the design for the $76.5 million Civic and Cultural Centre. The design seen from Riding Lane.
The design for the proposed $76.5 million Civic and Cultural Centre. CHCC

Mr Gooley said he is going to write a letter to every councillor before Thursday's meeting as "the decision they make is going to have a long-lasting negative impact on this town."

Mr Gooley also said the design is very expensive and the costing for the space is nothing short of excessive.

"They say it will cost $75 million to build. So without any variations or increase in costs the space created will cost approx $6000 per metre to build.

"My company built Gateway House for less than $1900 per metre in today's terms. Gateway House has a five and a half star energy rating, it's probably the best building in Coffs Harbour.

"The proposed building is an extreme extravagance. It is three times the cost of the best building in Coffs which won multiple awards for its built form and design.

"Let's say they borrow the $75 million to build it, they will be paying more than $3.5 million a year just to cover the interest debt and that is calculated on low interest rates.

"Should rates move then the cost obviously increases. This is not paying back the principal just the interest."

The Park Beach Plaza and HomeBase supremo also took aim at the council's estimated valuations for the current buildings they need to sell to fund what Mr Gooley labels an "extravagance".

"I think they've overstated the council buildings valuations by well over 200-300 per cent and they're going to really struggle to get the numbers they need.

"The buildings, one of which is the current council chambers, are useless to pretty much everyone, so the purchaser would have to knock them down and spend more money to rebuild. I don't think anyone will go near them."

Mr Gooley said he is risking his future relationship with council in regards to ongoing DA's for the Bachrach Naumburger Group by speaking out.

He said he feels a responsibility as someone has to voice an opinion a large number of people also hold.

"I spoke at a recent FLOT meeting and 20 other business people came up to me after it and said thank you.

"They said they were too sacred to speak up, I'm not. There's a lot of people around town who really don't want this thing to go ahead."


Steve Gooley has risked his relationship with council after slamming the proposed civic space.
Steve Gooley has risked his relationship with council after slamming the proposed civic space. Trevor Veale

Mr Gooley said at the end of the day he's speaking out because he has the region's long term interests at heart.

"I 100 per cent agree they need to do something with the library and the gallery but this isn't it.

"It's going to be an albatross around the necks of the next three generations for Coffs Harbour.

"They want to be able to fund the new Woolgoolga sports centre, new surf life saving clubs, the Jetty enhancements and so on. Well if they go through with this they won't be able to fund anything at all for decades.

"When I or any business person evaluate investments or new buildings you go through a lot of different processes. Return on investment, risk analysis, best bang for your buck and more.

"This is not the best bang for the Coffs community's buck. Coffs councillors should not vote for this proposal as it would be grossly irresponsible."