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