• Geoff Senescall is a public relations consultant living in Freemans Bay.
One tragic outcome of the recent council elections is that the iconic Chamberlain Park 18 hole public golf course is being fast-tracked for the chop. Wasting no time post elections the City Vision-led Albert Eden Local Board has signalled work will begin within 12 months on its $30m redevelopment plan that will eventually see the course cut in half.
People who don't play golf might well think this is a big chunk of dirt 10 minutes from the city centre that could be used for other purposes. The accompanying argument goes something like "golf is an elitist sport played by rich people with too much time". This rhetoric certainly sits well with City Vision who are championing the chop at Chamberlain.
Disappointingly, it appears the newly-elected mayor Phil Goff supports using ratepayer money to redevelop Chamberlain in spite of the enormous task ahead to slash costs and keep future rates rises in check.
Goff might be excused a victorious rush of blood to the head. But it is ironic that the first target for this former Labour leader is not the wealthy private golf clubs, which the new mayor has already said are unfairly benefiting from subsidised land usage. Rather, it is a public golf course, one of only two servicing Auckland, that is predominantly used by the working class; those who either cannot afford the membership fees of private clubs, don't play enough to justify the expense, or who are more attracted to the casual nature of the public course.
Chamberlain Park is an easy target, but the question Goff must ask is is it a fair one?
What is being proposed at Chamberlain is to cut the course in half and use land for other activities such as sports fields and bikeways. So clearly this is not about revenue generation, as it is for the private courses, it is about taking away a large slice of a well-used amenity.
How would the golfers at Remuera or Royal Auckland feel if their courses met the same fate? How would Lydia Ko or John Key feel if their local course was suddenly cut in half?
For all of Goff's hard talk, he is a politician: smart enough to know that taking on the elites in the same way as is being proposed for Chamberlain would be political suicide.
Just how egalitarian is it to penalise those people who might not be in a position to play elsewhere?
It is ironic that the first target for this former Labour leader is not the wealthy private golf clubs, which the new mayor has already said are unfairly benefiting from subsidised land usage.
SHARE THIS QUOTE:
Chamberlain Park attracts some 50,000 rounds of golf a year, making it one of the busiest courses in Auckland. It attracts a wide diversity of people: Maori, Pacific Islanders, Koreans, Indians - Kiwis who like Chamberlain because they can simply turn up and play. They don't have to wear the latest gear - a tee shirt and jeans is perfectly fine.
It is also popular among pensioners who like the generous fairways and the fact that the course is reasonably flat. Take it away and where do these people go?
The proposed redevelopment of Chamberlain Park highlights a flaw in the SuperCity structure whereby local boards can consider parks and recreation areas without reference to facilities available in nearby areas or to city-wide parks and recreation plans.
So although Chamberlain is very much an Auckland-wide amenity, because it sits within the Albert Eden precinct it is the local board that gets to determine its future.
Last year the City Vision-led local board voted just four to three to redevelop the park. In doing so they pointed to the lack of public space amenity within their borders even though the space available to them meets accepted standards for suburban recreation space.
The absurdity of this is that on its borders are Cornwall Park/One Tree Hill Domain, Meola Park and Western Springs. Close to its borders lie Auckland Domain, Big King Reserve, Mt Hobson Domain, Keith Hay Park and Memorial Park.
For me Chamberlain Park was where I learned to play golf. I am lucky enough to have options to play elsewhere. But many others who play there are not so fortunate.
I would suggest that Goff and those from the Albert Eden local board set their alarms one Saturday morning and head to Chamberlain to see just who is lining up to play at day break. They are not just golfers, they are real people who deserve the opportunity like anyone else to enjoy what is an exceptional game and a game for life.
As a Herald editorial recently noted "[the board] needs to recognise also that what [Chamberlain Park] provides is irreplaceable. And that if the carve-up goes ahead and the course is reduced....a city gem will be lost forever".
A petition with more than 3000 signatures and growing is seeking to ensure that this asset remains as an unchanged 18 hole course to be enjoyed by future generations. You can view the petition on www.savecpark.org