In news that will no doubt delight local golfers, but disappoint some course designers, the Fitzroy Golf Club in New Zealand has been saved from redevelopment.
The New Plymouth District Council had proposed selling off half the club’s leased land for a housing estate, but Mayor Neil Holdom yesterday conceded that his plan was misguided and is now recommending Council shelve the idea.
Holdom admitted to website Stuff.co.nz that he was wrong to push the sale, and sorry for the stress created.
Said Holdom of his back flip, “We've heard loud and clear what people are telling us. I want to apologise to anyone and everyone who's been stressed, upset or confused by my ideas. It was never my intention. The last thing I wanted to do was to stress people and create angst, and I've done that, I have to take responsibility for that and I got it wrong. I'm sorry."
A highly successful ‘Save Fitzroy Golf Course’ campaign had generated in excess of 4,000 signatures and made compelling submissions to a district council hearing during the week. It was apparently whilst listening to the impassioned pleas of golf club members to retain a full 18-hole course, and reading various submissions against the subdivision, that the Mayor changed his viewpoint.
According to the Stuff.co.nz article, as Save Fitzroy Golf Course campaigners celebrated at the golf club yesterday afternoon the New Plymouth District Council was left to explain the genesis of its proposal and the reasons behind the change of heart.
Councillor Gordon Brown explained to Stuff.co.nz that:
“The move was never a popular one and has been confronted by such an overwhelming tidal wave of public opposition the council had no choice but to act accordingly.
"I think it's sensible to get it out of the way sooner rather than later."
He said several councillors had been opposed to the idea from the beginning.
"The only thing we agreed to, many of us, was it going out for consultation."
In getting the proposal into the long term plan process the council spent $22,062 on getting a legal opinion on both revoking the reserve land status and the lease with Fitzroy Golf Club, but would not reveal the advice it received.
It was proposed half the golf course be sold and split into sections which would sell for $305,000 plus GST to raise $35 million to fund flagship projects such as the redevelopment of either the TSB Stadium or the Todd Energy Aquatic Centre.
As with the likes of Albert Park, Elsternwick and Warringah in Australia, Fitzroy provides New Plymouth locals with an important, and affordable, introduction to the game of golf. For public golfers the green fees are $20, while full members pay less than NZ$600 per year for their memberships. Importantly, learners can play the course without charge and the club also runs free weekly coaching clinics for new juniors.
Although we haven’t played Fitzroy, it occupies what looks to be nice rolling ground and sounds precisely like the sort of unpretentious, grassroots golf club that our game needs to staunchly defend, and retain.
Some might suggest that a superior 9 hole loop would be a positive development for a place like Fitzroy, but that view is unproven and rarely shared by true public course golfers, who generally prefer playing 18 different holes. Once municipal golf land is taken it is lost to the game forever. As was the case in Victoria when Albert Park's 18 holes were retained, New Zealand golfers should be pleased by yesterday’s announcement from New Plymouth.
Read the full Stuff.co.nz article here.
by Darius Oliver
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