Could Auckland's public golf courses help end the housing crisis?

Auckland's most prestigious public golf course is working on options to present to the Council over how the local community can better access the land it sits on.

It's estimated Remuera Golf Course could be used for 8000 extra houses, cutting Auckland's 25,000 home shortfall by close to a third.

Remuera Golf Club met with Mayor Phil Goff earlier this month to talk about its future, after comments he made during the election campaign about selling the site worth more than $700 million.

However, the Mayor says the course has taken steps to ensure that doesn't happen.

"They extended their lease with their local board out to 2091 - that constrains our options, I don't think that was an appropriate thing to do," he told Newshub Nation.

Desley Simpson was chair of the Orakei Local Board in 2016, when Remuera's lease was renewed.

"It was the tool I had to give them the longest possible lease so that it couldn't possibly be up for review and then potentially be turned into housing, which is something I am absolutely,  vehemently opposed to," she told Newshub Nation.

The meeting comes during a time when there is significant debate over whether the city's 13 public courses are the best use of the space they occupy.

Could Auckland's public golf courses help end the housing crisis?
Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

Of Auckland's 36 golf courses, 10 are owned by the council and three by the Government.

Collectively, these public courses cover more than 500 hectares of open space and are worth more than three billion dollars.

Half of the leases on these courses are currently up for renewal or will be over the next decade.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub says at least some of the land needs to be repurposed to better address the needs of Aucklanders.

"With private golf courses, it's their land, it's their assets they can choose what they want to do with it. But for the Auckland Council to own lazy assets like golf courses does not make sense,

"When there are long lists of people who are waiting for houses, are under a lot of stress around rental properties - it simply means that they're failing to provide a basic need -which is shelter."

Auckland's population is expected to hit 2 million by 2030, and will be closing in on 2.5 million by 2050.

The council estimates a further 313,000 homes will eventually be needed to house that population.

Projected population growth in Auckland.
Projected population growth in Auckland. Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

However, golfing advocates argue that the sport and the spaces it provides are valuable to the community, the environment and the economy.

In times of high rainfall, golf courses can play an important role in diffusing stormwater runoff and some courses have high ecological value as wildlife corridors or habitats.

A 2015 report found there were 94,000 golfers in Auckland -  8.6 percent of the population.

"The fact is, golf is the most played sport in Auckland," NZ Golf CEO Dean Murphy told Newshub Nation.

Golf also contributes to Auckland’s GDP.

"Over 50 million just from Golf in this region, over a thousand people employed, so some quite tangible stuff."

Generation Zero housing advocate, Leorey Beckett, says while the situation is complicated, it’s important land use by golf courses is scrutinised.

"People who play golf have quite a lot of resources to protect their desire to play golf, but I do think there needs to be a hard look at whether this is the best use for all Aucklanders."

Ms Simpson organised a meeting earlier this month between the club and the Mayor and says she’s confident the area will remain a golf course.

Mr Goff, however, says he needs to balance the needs of the course with Auckland as a whole.

"It's a process we're not rushing into, but it will be a consultative process and it will be saying 'hey, we don't want to lose all of this public open space but maybe we could make it more accessible to more people  for more purposes."

Newshub Nation.

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