A debt owed by a club linked to the GC mayor’s business partner might never be paid


July 29, 2019 05:06:25

A club linked to a long-term business partner of Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate may escape paying a $137,000 debt owed to the Gold Coast City Council.

Key points:

  • The Gold Coast Commerce Club closed its doors for renovations in 2010 and has not reopened
  • The club owes the Gold Coast council $137,128 in “rates, charges and penalty interest”
  • The club’s treasurer says it has been “wrongly charged” the dues

The Gold Coast Commerce Club had leased one quarter of the bowling green at the old Surfers Paradise Bowls Club from the council.

After 10 years, the lease lapsed in June last year.

The section of land — marked as 72 Remembrance Drive — was the only quarter of the bowling green not owned by companies controlled by Mr Tate and two business partners, and was the last piece of land required to progress a $300 million development.

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Club closed since 2010

The Gold Coast Commerce Club was set up after a company called Crestden Pty Ltd, directed by one of Mr Tate’s business partners, bought the bowls club venue — including bar, bistro and gaming lounge — at the adjoining 70 Remembrance Drive in the mid-2000s.

A week later Mr Tate became a 50 per cent shareholder and director of Crestden.

But the club ceased trading in 2010 and was closed for renovations.

It has not re-opened. The club rooms sit vacant at the bottom of a block of units called the Surfers Plaza Resort.

Crestden had bought half of the bowling green in two lots in 2007. The lots were later sold to companies controlled by Mr Tate and two business partners.

Crestden then successfully applied to council to build a $300 million development known as Waterglow on the site.

In 2016, the same companies controlled by Mr Tate and two business partners bought the third quarter of the bowling green from the Queensland Government and attempted to buy the fourth quarter the club was already leasing from the council.

No sale proceeded.

Tate role in Commerce Club unclear

One of Mr Tate’s business partners in Crestden is Kelvin Gersbach, who is still listed as the treasurer of the Gold Coast Commerce Club.

Speaking to the ABC, Mr Gersbach described Mr Tate as a director of Crestden and the “landlord” of the Commerce Club.

The Mayor has no known role in the club’s operations and his lawyers told the ABC in a statement that “Mr Tate is not, and has never been, a member of the committee of the Gold Coast Commerce Club.”

The Commerce Club’s “nominated address for service” remains 70 Remembrance Drive, the site of the bowls club venue owned by Crestden.

In recent years the Gold Coast Commerce Club premises were listed for sale at 70 Remembrance Drive and were marketed with a Queensland Club Liquor and Gaming Licence complete with poker machines.

The ABC can reveal that when the Commerce Club’s lease over the fourth adjoining green lapsed last year it owed the Gold Coast City Council $137,128 in “rates, charges and penalty interest”, which accumulated while the club held the lease.

But when the ABC asked the council what steps it was taking to recover this debt a spokeswoman said that “council has not identified any option that is likely to result in the payment of any portion of this unsecured debt.”

Treasurer says club ‘wrongly charged’

Mr Gersbach claims the council has erred in levying the charges.

“They have wrongly charged the club for rates and expenses where they should not have charged under a council lease for a not-for-profit organisation. And that was some time ago, some years ago, where they should never have charged and they did,” he said.

But the council rejects Mr Gersbach’s account, saying the $137,128 has been correctly charged and that it last issued the Commerce Club a debt notice in October last year.

The council said it had not yet written off the debt and was “reviewing the matter of potential collection of the unsecured debt with a view to ensure any funds expended will likely result in successful recovery of the debt.”

The ABC can also reveal that the Gold Coast Commerce Club has failed to lodge annual returns with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for four years.

The OFT says it wrote to the Commerce Club asking for the required documentation to be lodged in “accordance with the legislative obligations”.

“As the entity failed to respond to the OFT request, a notice was issued requesting the entity to show cause why its incorporation should not be cancelled.”

Mr Gersbach said the Commerce Club had been completing the returns.

“The Office of Fair Trading know that, they’re being brought up to date. The Commerce Club hasn’t traded so there’s little reporting to do in any case,” he said.

The Waterglow development seems to have been abandoned, with three quarters of the bowling green land and clubhouse put up for sale earlier this month.

The real estate agent has not listed a price, but a 2018 valuation suggests that the three-quarter portion of the bowling green is worth $10 million.










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