To the angst of property moguls and developers in New Zealand, many golf courses enjoy “historic sweetheart deals” in the city, with Waitemata Golf Club and the Waiheke Golf Club each paying $1 annual rental income despite being surrounded by private sections paying as much as $4000 a year in rates.
A rise in media interest comes at a time when Auckland Council identifies the need to provide for up to 400,000 additional households by 2040.
“Are we debating ways to grow the game of golf or ways to ease the housing crisis in Auckland?” Whiley asks. “Auckland Council has no appreciation of what is going on; they are merely looking at a map, seeing lots of green space and targeting golf.”
But crucially for Whiley, economists such as Eaqub have “missed the point” when calling for bunkers to be replaced by breeze blocks.
“On paper, Waitemata is in a prime area of residential use,” he explains, “except it’s below sea level and if you look at the infrastructure of the area, how will Auckland Council make it work?
“If you replace Waitemata with 560 houses, what happens to the residents who purchased their homes next to a golf course? What happens to their land value?
“What if 200 children live in those houses. Do we have enough schools, public transport, electricity, sewage treatment? All these pieces of the puzzle come into play. You can’t just pick a spot and build on it.”
At present, “a lot of the land” on which these golf courses operate is zoned as open space or active recreation and/or classified under the Reserves Act 1977, with Auckland Council “not commissioning any professional or technical advice about the development potential of this land”.
Golf aside, for many Aucklanders, both golfers and non golfers; cities are comprised of more than just buildings and people. For hundreds of years across the world, city planners have developed parks, planted trees and set aside open space in urban environments, and as cities continue to grow, the most ‘liveable’ cities — a badge of honour Auckland Council desperately covets — are as known for their open space as they are for their culture.
“Great parks and spaces are important to Aucklanders, and so is being physically active and enjoying the outdoors,” says Christine Fletcher, councillor, AlbertEden-Roskill. “Demands on our parks, including sports parks, is high and as we look to Auckland’s future we need to understand how best to utilise these areas for all Aucklanders.”