Auckland Council has been slammed by local boards, golf clubs and national sports organisations over a new “investment plan” for its 13 golf courses that could potentially see land being sold in future.
The draft Auckland Golf Investment Plan, which policymakers have been working on since 2016, has been criticised as being unfair, biased, inaccurate and outdated, with none of the Supercity’s 21 local boards supporting it, and countless other groups and individuals objecting.
Council maintains that public access to its 535 hectares of golf course land is limited and that more space is needed for open space, community facilities, housing and business.
It says exclusive use of the publicly owned land – which had an estimated value of $2.9 billion in 2018 – for golf alone is “unsustainable”.
However, Council’s methods and statistics used during public consultation have come under fire, not least at last month’s Rodney Local Board meeting, where Omaha and Muriwai Golf Clubs, Golf NZ and board members were unanimous in their displeasure at how the plan had been drawn up and its potential for damage to local clubs and communities.
Golf NZ director Hana-Rei Seifert said Council was a critical partner for golf, but the national regulatory body hadn’t even been consulted. She said Golf NZ had provided Council with up to date playing and usage statistics, but old data had not been changed in the plan.
“It has been created without valid information, but with bias and factual misrepresentation,” she said in the public forum. “They should be consulting with the national body, as well as Sport NZ and other sporting organisations.”
Board chair Phelan Pirrie also questioned this with Council’s senior policy manager, Carole Canler.
“You’ve got a proposal that is not supported by the people affected by it. Normally, wouldn’t there be a strategy of engagement with the sector?” he asked.
However, Canler said no.
“The draft golf investment plan is not a sector plan, so we don’t go to the sector,” she said.
Omaha Golf Club’s Richard Brabant said Council had acquired the Omaha land at no cost to ratepayers and the land and community centre were leased from the Local Board for the next 28 years. He said there had never been any investment by Council and the club was self-supporting, open to all and thriving. It was also a valuable wetland and native forest resource.
“The key concern is what happens when the lease runs out. The council draft proposal talks about business cases and opportunities,” he said. “All the effort and work that the course represents could be completely at risk from some future decision that we don’t know about.”
He and Board members also questioned why it was called an investment plan at all, with Board member Brent Bailey suggesting that it sounded more like a divestment strategy.
Steven Garner said Council was coming at it from the wrong angle, while Tim Holdgate said it was unfair to Board lessees. Pirrie agreed, and added that Council had also failed to give the Board sufficient time to provide feedback.
“I’m disappointed in the way this has been handled. We’re in partnership with these people, they’re our leaseholders. It feels like it would have been better to engage with them,” he said. “And reasonable time must be given to local boards to receive information, read it and provide feedback.”
Members voted not to support the draft plan, citing a raft of reasons criticising Council’s development of the plan, and called the plan to be withdrawn and restarted.
Full list of Board objections.
Rodney Local Board did not support the Draft Golf Investment Plan in its current form for the following reasons:
i) poor consultation with the golfing sector
ii) outdated data was used in the plan and included in consultation material that went out to the public
iii) contains assumptions such as stating decisions of legacy councils were ‘ad hoc’ when this is incorrect
iv) appears to be disingenuously termed an ‘investment’ plan when no council investment is quantified or planned
v) omits to recognise the investment made by course developers, residents’ societies, and golf club members
vi) does not mention the social benefits and value to the wider community that golf club facilities provide, as community hubs
vii) does not provide strategies or support for golf clubs to increase participation through improvements to things such as bathroom facilities to cater to women and disabled, but instead makes suggestions such as reducing some courses to nine holes when nine holes (or in fact any number) can already be played on any course if that is the player’s preference
viii) does not recognise the function of some golf courses as wetland protection areas, stormwater retention and wastewater dispersal fields
ix) appears to single out golf courses as being an “exclusive use of public land” without comparison or context to other sporting facilities owned by council
x) there was no engagement with Golf New Zealand or NZ Māori Golf
xi) does not recognise that clubs are self-funding of all maintenance and improvements
xii) uses the phrase “robust investment framework” without explanation of what that means or looks like
b) express concern that the decision-making framework in the draft Auckland Golf Investment Plan is unclear and could be inconsistent with the allocation of decisions to local boards and local boards’ governance responsibility for provision of active recreation activity, community leases and local parks/open space
c) seek further clarity on decision making outlined in page 21 of the draft Auckland Golf Investment Plan with a clear decision tree between the Governing Body and local boards on individual golf courses that are being assessed as part of this draft Plan
d) request further work to be completed on a regional provision standard for golf and access to golf facilities prior to adopting the draft Auckland Golf Investment Plan, so access to these facilities is considered across Auckland, including in areas without existing golf courses on public land
e) request that Auckland Council take a regional approach to reviewing golfing facilities including both public and private provision
f) request that the plan be withdrawn and there be a restart of the process, partnering with Golf New Zealand, Auckland Golf, and North Golf in its development.