Speech to the Council's Environment and Community Committee

The Council should not approve the expenditure of $1m of rate payer funds to support a $29.7m project to redevelop what is the busiest golf course in Auckland.

I hope alarm bells are ringing with this new price tag for the indicative business plan that is up 35% on the previous one for the exact same masterplan.

Just to remind you, Chamberlain Park has been an 18 hole public golf course for 80 years. Today it continues to be a golf course that supports the health and wellbeing of largely the working classes – also around 30% of its users are Maori and Polynesian. And it is not just about golf.

Chamberlain Park is a unique inner city landform that has escaped development till now and provides an exquisite insight into how things looked well before humans first set foot on this land.

For our nearly 20,000 and growing petition supporters such arguments are enough. But not for a local board that wants to concentrate this huge “Think Big” like expenditure on a part of its ward that has an abundance of green space such as Fowlds Park and the Unitec Campus - even more when you take account of the neighbouring Western Springs Park. In fact by our count there are 69 parks and reserves within 2km of Chamberlain Park.

We have submitted more detailed arguments to you which I hope you will have read before making your decision. It is our view that the indicative business plan presented to you here today is flawed in that contains errors and lacks balance and is therefore potentially unlawful.

These flaws have been pointed out to the Local Board and the council staff but they still see fit to place them in front of you today. You should know the Local board voted five three along political lines to approve this project and also defeat a motion to discuss the report with us – I note two of those who voted in favour are not standing for the local board in this upcoming election. I also note that you have received information from Graeme Easte questioning the $29.7m figure and

pouring scorn on Council staff. Mr Easte voted in favour of the indicative business plan – if his convictions were so strong – and we are talking about a significant investment of rate payer funds here – then how could he allow this erroneous plan to put before you here today? Well he may question this $29.7m figure because even with an aggressive 34 year payback period the council staff can only find $26m of benefit. The only thing to conclude here is that this money could be better spent.

So what are some of the flaws?

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 numbers are up 20% in the 2019 year to March.

Then the plan says that the ethnic mix in Albert Eden is changing with NZ Europeans falling as a percentage and Asian numbers increasing – but it does not join the dots to suggest that Asian people are more likely to be golfers than rugby players.

The plan talks about the changing dynamics of golf in support of nine holes – but its masterplan is totally offside with the two main golfing bodies – Auckland Golf and NZ Golf. Over 100,000 people play golf in Auckland. Golf is the number one participation sport in this city.

Ever since we started challenging this in 2015 we have heard there is a critical shortage of sports fields in the Albert Eden area and a lack of open space.

Council language around sports fields has since changed to one of making our fields usable all year around.

However, the council staff and the local board still keep on talking about the lack of sports fields in justifying the expenditure of now $16m on yes – only two sports fields.

Just imagine how many existing sports fields could be weatherproofed for that price. It is not only unfair on golf it is unfair on those kids and teams who get rained off week after week.

The business plan says the masterplan offers a mixture of sport and recreation opportunities allowing a wider and more diverse section of the population to utilise public open space. The fact is there is more than sufficient sport and recreation opportunities in the

vicinity of Chamberlain Park. Changing the offer at Chamberlain Park would merely transfer some sport and recreation activities from close by parks such as Western Springs, Fowlds Park and Unitec Campus, to Chamberlain Park resulting in no net increase in utilisation of open space. I note that Unitec is being developed into a residential area with generous open space provision amounting to several Neighbourhood Parks and a Suburb Park.

The redevelopment options chosen provides poor community outcomes: it just makes no sense for example spending money on carving up part of the park to put a neighbourhood park adjacent to an existing one – this does not increase access to neighbourhood parks by any measure.

In conclusion this is a hugely important issue both in terms of the future of this well used recreational asset and the costs associated with its redevelopment. At the moment you are being asked to make a decision on a flawed indicative business plan.

So I put to you again what we said in our submission. Council decision making is required:

  • To take into account all matters that should be taken into account

  • To not take into account matters that should not be taken into account

  • To be fair

  • To be reasonable