Saturday, 20 July 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Owner says The Dunes Golf Course in Matarangi will cease to exist

In a decision released on Monday last week, the Environment Court dismissed an appeal from Golf (2012) Limited against the rezoning of The Dunes golf course in Matarangi as open space in the new Thames-Coromandel District Council District Plan.

The Dunes is situated at the western end of the Matarangi Spit. Golf (2012) is the owner of the golf course.

The appeal was heard in Thames on 27 and 28 June last year.

The open space rezoning does not mean that The Dunes must remain as a golf course. Land covenants determine that parts of the golf course have to remain as a golf course until 2022, with the remainder having to remain as a golf course until 2024. After that, there is no requirement for any part of the western end of the Matarangi Spit to remain as a golf course.

Golf (2012) unsuccessfully argued in the appeal that the district plan was rezoning privately-owned land and that the rezoning would render The Dunes incapable of what is termed “reasonable use” in section 85 of the Resource Management Act.

“The Dunes… is a privately owned, beautifully maintained and operated 18-hole golf course,” says Michael Siemelink, the sole director of Golf (2012). “Like most New Zealand golf courses, it struggles financially. It cannot continue to be a premium 18-hole golf course.”
According to Mr Siemelink, Golf (2012) unsuccessfully made, prior the appeal being heard by the Environment Court,  a proposal to the Matarangi Ratepayers Association Incorporated (MRAI) to establish a residential development on two holes of the golf course, to develop the land on which the clubhouse is situated into, in his words, “greater retail and accommodation facilities” and to configure the rest of the golf course at the expense of Golf (2012) into a somewhat shorter 18-hole golf course.

Alastair MacCormick, the chairman of the MRAI, says they welcome the decision of the Environment Court. “It has taken six years to confirm the open space zoning [of The Dunes golf course] proposed by [TCDC] in the original draft District Plan [in 2013],” he says.

“We are delighted that the land at the western end of the Matarangi Spit is to be retained as open space, preserving the high natural character of the area and allowing its continued use for recreation. The walk around the spit end is very popular with residents and visitors and the challenging golf course remains a significant amenity that distinguishes Matarangi as a seaside community.

“The MRAI thanks the [TCDC] mayor and councillors and their staff for their commitment and is pleased to have given council strong support as they resolutely defended the open space zoning.

“This fantastic outcome rewards the virtually unanimous resolve of the Matarangi community, which was amply demonstrated in public meetings and the media and through increased membership of the Matarangi Ratepayers Association. Matarangi residents showed just how much they value generous open space.”

Michael Siemelink says the Environment Court decision was not the best outcome for the Matarangi community. “The best outcome for the Matarangi residents to preserve their much loved golf course would have been for the golf course to continue as a premium 18-hole golf course for a couple of years and thereafter for it to have been modified to allow some limited residential subdivision which could have helped fund a course into the future,” he says.

“TCDC did not want any further subdivision at the golf course. Effectively, they wanted the privately-owned golf course to become a reserve forever. Rather than achieve this by acquiring [The Dunes] for fair value in a compulsory purchase process, they did this by zoning [the golf course] in its entirety as open space and the Environment Court has… sanctioned this.

“We are considering an appeal. As it stands, however, the actions of council and the Environment Court have doomed the golf course which so many Matarangi residents love to play.

“We have no incentive to continue to maintain a premium golf course. [The Dunes] will inevitably revert to a basic country, ‘bare bones’ course and, in a couple of years when the obligation to run a golf course expires, it will cease to exist altogether.

“The takeaway message from TCDC’s actions is that councils no longer have to achieve their ends by purchasing land at fair value through a compulsory purchase process and can instead use the rezoning process to achieve the same result for free. The sanctioning of this by the Environment Court sets a very dangerous precedent which should greatly worry landowners throughout New Zealand.”

TCDC mayor, Sandra Goudie, did not want to comment on the Environment Court decision as the decision may still be appealed to the High Court.

Golf (2012) has 15 working days from when they were notified of the decision to file an appeal in the High Court. Any appeal will be limited to questions of law only.

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