13 Sep 2018

Auckland golfers teed-off by thought of courses getting the chop

10:01 am on 13 September 2018

Chamberlain Park Golf Course is an oasis of calm next to the frantic North-Western Motorway at its northern border.

Chamberlain Park Golf Course.

Chamberlain Park Golf Course. Photo: Facebook

The 32-hectare space is on track to be turned from an 18-hole to a nine-hole-course, with the freed-up land to become a public park.

It's part of Auckland Council's stock-take of the city's golf courses, looking at what they're worth and how they can better be used.

A new report found Auckland's ratepayers are potentially missing out on tens of millions of dollars by keeping its golf courses in public hands.

The city's publicly-owned golf courses, which collectively cover over 500 hectares of open space, are worth some $3 billion.

The report by government consultancy MartinJenkins looked at 12 of the city's 13 courses and found that all had costs that outweigh the benefits they deliver.

Chamberlain's costs, for example, were found to outweigh its benefits by $24 million a year. Those benefits include what are known as "opportunity costs" - that's the money it could potentially generate if it wasn't a golf course.

Teeing off from the 10th, Ken Brawn wasn't impressed that his course of 35 years could be up for the chop.

"If it wasn't for golfers it wouldn't even be here. You know, we've kept it alive, we've paid for it," he said.

"You know, this is just short-sightedness, this is always going to happen - it's going to happen in another couple of years and then what are we going to sell? It's going to make it a shit place to live."

Karl Hutton plays the course every week and said you can't really put a price on the benefits a golf course gives a community.

He said the council's plan to convert half the course to a park won't deliver any greater benefits.

"Opportunity costs is all very well but I think that one of the things that council's looking to do is to convert it to sports fields and open park. You don't get that sort of revenue off sports fields and open park."

Mark Foresman also wasn't too happy about the prospect of a diminished Chamberlain course.

"It would be a really great loss to Auckland I think if this was chopped up into nine holes. There's only two public courses in Auckland, really, which is Takapuna and Chamberlain."

The biggest cost-benefit disparity identified by the report was found to be Remuera, where retaining the land in public ownership was projected to result in $38.9 million in lost opportunity.

Six of the courses were flagged as being potential locations for future housing developments.

However, Auckland Council environment and community committee chairperson Penny Hulse was quick to dampen that possibility.

"We're very, very clear that the one thing that Auckland needs is more parkland so before we go rushing off and talking about houses on golf courses let's make sure we've actually got enough open space first."

She agreed that members-only golf courses, which can be very expensive despite being publicly owned, could not be considered public amenities and that something should be done.

"Communities effectively own these golf courses and they want to have access to them and part of the work that we're doing is to say, 'We need to look at sharing these spaces'."

Golf New Zealand chief executive Dean Murphy questioned some of the figures in the report and said as the city grows, it will need more golfing facilities.

"In terms of providing facilities for people to recreate and play the largest adult sport in Auckland we think it's pretty important to have a network of golf facilities."

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