The ownership of Auckland Council's 13 golf courses is back in the spotlight with their fairways, greens and bunkers worth more than $2 billion if they went on the open market for development.
Using ratepayer-owned golf courses for homes is often floated by housing advocates, though this falls flat with clubs and their members.
Auckland's councillors are being called to a workshop behind closed doors scheduled for July 24 to be briefed on future plans for 13 council-owned golf courses where half of the leases are due to expire between 2021 and 2026. Other courses have leases running until 2094.
And a report from the council late last year points out that land used for golfing "can be better utilised [from a wider community benefit perspective] than in their current state".
"The Auckland region currently has 23 golf courses with Auckland Council being the largest investor in this sport. Auckland Council has an opportunity to reconsider its rationale for continuing ownership, particularly given the presence of well-functioning privately operated golf courses."
The council gave 43.65ha Takapuna golf course as an "illustrative example" of where the land could be reshaped and allow for affordable housing and public parks while still allowing a playing course.
It referred a $300m development in Albany where 800 mid-rise units were planned for a 2ha area.
"This indicates that a significant number of mid-rise units can be achieved whilst still providing golfing facilities and plentiful open space to the wider community," the report said.
A spokesman for Takapuna Golf Course said there had been little discussion about any sale:
"But we would be unhappy about it. We don't want it to be sold."
The club bills itself as the most played public golf course in Auckland and says more than 60,000 people hit a round each year.
The council report cites a study carried out in 2015 by investment bankers Cameron Partners which listed the "alternative use value" of the 13 golf courses as $2.1b.
Remuera is the city's most valuable council-owned course by far, its 63.6ha valued for rates at $22.5m but $517.1m by Cameron Partners as an "alternative use value". But its lease doesn't expire till 2091, making it the most inaccessible potentially.
The 32.3ha Chamberlain Park is second-most valuable, listed as $315.6m as Cameron's alternative use, followed by the 73.5ha Pupuke at $307.2m, 43.7ha Takapuna at $229.7m and 19.2ha Waitemata at $212.2m
Last month the High Court ruled against a group opposing new uses for part of the Chamberlain Park course and in favour of park users. Golf is planned to be retained there but other recreational uses are planned as well.
Geoff Senescall, Save Chamberlain Park chairman, said more than 94,000 people in Auckland played golf annually, contributing about $54m to Auckland's GDP each year, and numbers were rising. Golf was the "number one participation sport in Auckland. The council should not be messing with the golfers because there's a lot of them and it's an important sport".
"Traditional golf membership in Auckland grew 2.26 per cent between 2015 and 2016," Senescall said, citing NZ Golf numbers.
"Since the inception of counting casual golfers in 2015, registered casual golfers have increased to 32,976 in under three years."
Golfing provides 749 fulltime equivalent jobs for Aucklanders, he said.
A Fletcher Building business bought the Manukau Golf Course, is moving that to Ardmore and building housing on the old course.
Steve Evans, who heads Fletcher's residential division, has expressed strong interest in Auckland golf courses.