COUR­SES IN THE FIR­ING LINE

Auck­land Coun­cil is look­ing for land to build houses and once again golf cour­ses are in the fir­ing line.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS - PE­TER WIL­LIAMS On the south side of the bridge there’s Re­muera and Cham­ber­lain Park in the cen­tral city, and Waitakere and Muri­wai way out west. Then there are three in the south west at Awhitu, Clark’s Beach and Waiuku and two more on is­lands in the gu

Auck­land Coun­cil (AC) owns the land used for thir­teen golf cour­ses. But once again coun­cil plan­ners are on the warpath for land to put hous­ing on - and golf is in the fir­ing line. Is it in­evitable that some of the cour­ses will dis­ap­pear com­pletely and oth­ers down­sized? Frankly, it seems this jug­ger­naut will not be stopped. But golfers won't go down with­out a bat­tle.

Fgolf. Re­muera Golf Club has 63.6 hectares of coun­cil land sur­rounded by prime res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hoods. AC’s rate­able value for the prop­erty is $22.5 mil­lion. But a re­port by in­vest­ment bankers Cameron Part­ners as­sessed the Re­muera’s “al­ter­na­tive use” value at $517.1 mil­lion. That might be an im­pres­sive num­ber but it means did­dly squat.

AC re­newed its lease to Re­muera only two years ago and it runs till 2091. Pro­vided it stays sol­vent and ac­tive, Re­muera Golf Club is go­ing nowhere.

AC owns the land for Pupuke, Taka­puna Pub­lic (Thomas Park) and Waitem­ata cour­ses on the North Shore, as well as for Omaha fur­ther north.

Those un­der the pump the most will be the city’s two pub­lic cour­ses at Cham­ber­lain Park and Taka­puna.

The sub­ject is not new to read­ers of this mag­a­zine. Your cor­re­spon­dent did an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2015 about the pro­posal to re­duce Cham­ber­lain Park to nine holes and use the re­main­ing land for a driv­ing range, all weather sports fields and a new aquatic com­plex.

Af­ter look­ing at the sta­tis­tics, it be­came very ob­vi­ous that the Al­bert-Eden Lo­cal Board’s plan was em­i­nently sen­si­ble. The amount of golf played had dropped sig­nif­i­cantly since the turn of the cen­tury while the pop­u­la­tion had in­creased. There is a dire need for all weather sports fields to stop week af­ter week of can­cel­la­tions dur­ing an Auck­land win­ter.

Save Cham­ber­lain Park Inc, a group op­posed to the re­duc­tion of the space avail­able for golf, took Auck­land Coun­cil to the High Court – and lost.

Jus­tice Moore con­cluded the de­ci­sion to change the use of the space was made by a demo­crat­i­cally elected body for the good of its ci­ti­zens.

Plans for the Taka­puna Pub­lic course seem a bit more sin­is­ter.

There are 43.65 hectares of mostly flat land right be­side the North­ern Mo­tor­way. With­out putting too fine a point on it, it’s prime res­i­den­tial land close to the city cen­tre in Taka­puna, handy to the Har­bour Bridge and not far from the ma­jor re­tail and com­mer­cial out­lets of the Wairau Val­ley.

A new re­port from AC says that land used for golf “can be bet­ter utilised (from a wider com­mu­nity ben­e­fit per­spec­tive) than in its cur­rent state.”

The re­port goes on to say “Auck­land Coun­cil has an op­por­tu­nity to re­con­sider its ra­tio­nale for con­tin­u­ing own­er­ship, par­tic­u­larly given the pres­ence of well func­tion­ing pri­vately op­er­ated golf cour­ses.”

All of which is a rather con­vo­luted way of say­ing that AC, over­see­ing a city with a hous­ing short­age, is not go­ing to keep on leas­ing prime land to a golf course op­er­a­tion.

At least the think­ing for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment is not com­pletely scorched earth. The re­port makes nice noises about af­ford­able hous­ing, pub­lic parks and some sort of smaller golf fa­cil­ity. →

But Taka­puna’s long term fu­ture seems far from cast iron guar­an­teed.

The re­al­ity is that golf does not rate highly on the list of AC’s favourite ac­tiv­i­ties. It may be the num­ber 1 par­tic­i­pant sport in the city and, ac­cord­ing to Save Cham­ber­lain Park Inc’s Ge­off Se­nescall, 94,000 Auck­lan­ders play each year.

That would seem to be gild­ing the lily quite a bit.

New Zealand Golf’s 2017 An­nual Re­port has 14,955 mem­bers in the Auck­land As­so­ci­a­tion, and 28,444 reg­is­tered ca­sual golfers. North Har­bour’s com­bined to­tal of club mem­bers and reg­is­tered ca­sual golfers is 18,386.

No mat­ter the ac­tual amount of golf par­tic­i­pa­tion, the re­al­ity is that golf in Auck­land takes up a lot of land for the ben­e­fit of few.

We could do some rough arith­metic. Taka­puna Pub­lic Golf Course (Thomas Park) cov­ers 43.65 hectares of land. The “al­ter­na­tive use” value here is $337 mil­lion.

There are about 60,000 rounds played there each year. The course rev­enue might top $3 mil­lion in a re­ally good year.

Many play more than once, but let’s be kind and say there are 60,000 unique vis­i­tors to the golf course each year. That means land use of 1373 peo­ple per hectare per year – or just un­der 4 peo­ple per hectare per day over a year.

Golf might be fun, and it needs plenty of space, but only four peo­ple per day on a hectare of prime flat land where 20 (sin­gle storey) houses could be built seems a pretty dif­fi­cult ar­gu­ment for golf to win.

So rais­ing much sym­pa­thy for Taka­puna (Thomas Park) to stay open might be dif­fi­cult.

Re­mem­ber though, that part of Auck­land’s North Shore has the Waitem­ata, Pupuke and North Shore Clubs all within 15 min­utes drive of Taka­puna.

As coun­cil own the leases for two of those clubs and North Shore is a 36 hole com­plex, it seems peo­ple who play at Taka­puna are not short of golf­ing op­tions – and not even a some­times heart­less Auck­land Coun­cil would go ra­pa­ciously grab­bing two golf cour­ses in the short term would it?

No mat­ter the ac­tual amount of golf par­tic­i­pa­tion, the re­al­ity is that golf in Auck­land takes up a lot of land for the ben­e­fit of few

Pupuke Golf Course, Camp­bells Bay.

Re­muera Golf Course Re­muera.

Muri­wai Golf Links, Muri­wai.

(T-B) Taka­puna Golf Course, Hill­crest, Auck­land.North Shore Golf Course, Al­bany.

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