10 Jul 2019

Chamberlain Park golf course a 'political football' as Tamihere, Fletcher launch campaign

6:08 pm on 10 July 2019

What started as a spat between golfers and a local board over the the future of Chamberlain Park in Western Springs has become a major political tussle in Auckland.

Chamberlain Park Golf Course.

Photo: Facebook

The powerful Environment and Community Committee spent much of today debating the future of the park, with Auckland Councillors in the end backing a contentious plan to downsize Chamberlain Park from an 18-hole course to nine.

The Albert-Eden Local Board has been pushing for the development - which would also see two sports fields and other amenities built on the course - but it has faced strong opposition from golfers who said it would destroy a precious local amenity.

Mayoral hopeful John Tamihere and his running mate Christine Fletcher are against the redevlopment.

Councillors voted 13 to seven in favour of starting a detailed business case, costing ratepayers some $1 million.

The development itself - should it ultimately go ahead - would cost close to $30m.

Ms Fletcher, currently a councillor, made one of the more impassioned speeches of the day.

"This is morally wrong to even consider this. It's morally wrong to even think of throwing more money, more consultants and more reports and everything else when we know that it has a very high level of failure likely," she said.

Another councillor for the ward, Cathy Casey, found it interesting that many of her colleagues including Ms Fletcher had spent so much time criticising others who had turned the issue political.

"The politics of this decision is certainly not coming from this ward councillor," she said. "On the other hand, I did open the Herald to find that a wannabe mayor and his wannabe deputy mayor made the launch of their campaign [about] Chamberlain Park. Enough said."

Albert-Eden Local Board chair Peter Haynes said the area had one of the largest population rises in Auckland in recent years, but was lacking sport fields.

He said local sports clubs were "absolutely desperate" for more space to play and train and were having to travel further afield.

Every conceivable option had been explored - from upgrading existing sports fields to building new ones elsewhere - he said, and the Chamberlain Park development was the only viable option.

"To say there's no urgency, to suggest that there are easy solutions, is ... to misrepresent reality. And the people who are politically opposed to widening the uses of Chamberlain Park know this because they've been there. And if they continue to support this idea, they should reflect on the integrity of doing that."

He said Chamberlain Park had become a political football.

"What concerns me is that there is a lot of stuff here that's misleading at best, if not downright dishonest. And there area people who are supporting that who ought to know better."

On the other hand, Geoff Senescall from the group Save Chamberlain Park said a report the councillors were relying was misleading.

"The plan uses misleading information to imply demand for golf is shrinking in the Albert-Eden area. But no-one from council has surveyed the users of the course; we have. It also conveniently ignores that the numbers are up 20 per cent at Chamberlain Park in the 2019 year to March."

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Senescall told RNZ he'd be making sure Chamberlain Park stays on the agenda throughout the election, welcoming Mr Tamihere and Ms Fletcher getting behind his group's cause.

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