Waahi Taakaro Golf Club has had challenges but its management says it has a bright future. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Questions over golf course dismissed

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Nelson City Council has no business using ratepayers money to subsidise an increasingly dwindling golfing population, says the Nelson Residents’ Association.

“The course competes with struggling, un-subsidised private clubs,” says association spokesperson Steve Cross. “It costs something like $1200 per member per year in ratepayer subsidy.”

Nelson City Council has owned Waahi Taakaro Golf Club in the Maitai Valley for many decades. However, Steve’s comments come in the wake of Auckland Council’s decision to cut one of its courses in half to make way for other community and sporting developments.

The High Court upheld the council’s decision to turn Chamberlain Park from an 18-hole course into a 9-hole course. In its place will be a new aquatic centre, playground, cycleways and two artificial turf sports fields.

Steve wonders how much longer the Nelson City Council can justify the spend on what is only benefitting a small number of citizens.

“It certainly seems time that rationale for continued spending for the sake of a few was revisited but of course NCC has great trouble taking the politically hard decisions.”

As part of a memorandum of understanding between the Nelson City Council and the golf course, the course was required to increase membership over the last five years. However, it currently only has 150 members, down slightly from three years ago and from about 250 at its height.

The council has a funding and revenue target for the course of users meeting a minimum of 50 percent of the costs of running the course, with ratepayers meeting the balance.

As part of that MOU both parties agree to: “Monitor usage and review future best use of area if user numbers do not increase as targeted.”

In the council’s community facilities plan 2012-2025 shows that ratepayers have been paying around $100,000 a year to subsidise the course against revenue of about $150,000.

The plan says that one of its key issues is asking whether “there a better use in the longer term for this 31 hectares of reserve land.”

Councillor Tim Skinner, who is chair of the sport and recreation committee, says looking at the golf course was not part of the council’s agenda and it was not part of any long term plan submissions.

He says the golf course is accommodating of other people using it such as runners and mountain bikers.

“Isn’t more subsidised for anything else. They pay their way for that.”

However, he says that he will look at Auckland’s Chamberlain Park decision with interest.

Waahi Taakarao golf club vice president Richard Pearson says he sees the club’s future as being much more promising than it has in a long time. It is coming up to a year where it has run the course by itself on a day to day basis, rather than relying on a contractor.

“It’s going really well. Revenue is good.”

He says that the club has opened up the doors for more competitions, allowing anyone to come and play.

“What’s the difference the council owning a golf course and it owning and Trafalgar Park? Nothing. It’s an asset that is pretty valuable to the whole community.”

Its financials were with the auditor and it would soon see what its outlook was for the future but right now.

“Things are looking very good.”