A pro-golf group fighting the Albert Eden Local Board proposal to redevelop Chamberlain Park is planning more court action if it’s shut out of the resource consent process.
Auckland Council is applying to its own planning department for consent to undertake the first stage of the redevelopment and its officers want the step to be non-notifiable – allowing the application to be heard without outside input.
Save Chamberlain Park (SCP), a group set up to challenge the local board moves to cut the course from 18 holes to nine and open up the rest of the land for wider community use, has accused the council of trying to sidestep public scrutiny of the plans.
The group is now trying to mobilise its nearly 8000 supporters to raise $20,000 to prepare another legal challenge against the council.
SCP says the council has recommended the “non-notified” route, despite the known strong opposition to its plans.
“If the council grants its own application, the public will be excluded from any input – with the only course of action being to once again seek a judicial review,” it says in a press statement.
The pro-golf group wants the 18-hole course to stay, and initially raised $50,000 to launch a judicial review of the process followed by the local board. Justice Simon Moore finished hearing that case in February and all parties are now waiting for his decision.
Meanwhile, the council has filed its resource consent application for the first stage – the only stage so far to be allocated funds – and SCP has just learnt of the bid to make it non-notifiable.
“It is hard to believe that an elected body would deliberately try and sidestep public scrutiny of its plans when there is strong public interest,” says the group.
“… Not only does the council get to make the decision on the resource consent application it gets to use public funds to defend its position against any public opposition.
“Chamberlain Park has been a well-used and loved public 18-hole golf course for nearly 80 years. More care needs to be taken about such assets as any precipitous actions by elected officials will, to the detriment of future generations, not be able to be unwound once implemented.”
Dr Peter Haynes, chair of the local board, said the resource consent application and the moves to have it heard on a non-notified basis, were not political decisions. They were made by council officers and the local board had no say in the process.
The 80-year-old course was owned by the old Auckland City Council but the board effectively became its guardian after the creation of the supercity in 2010.
In place of the full 18 holes, the board proposes a new nine-hole layout, driving range, sports fields, more public areas and perhaps a new aquatic centre to replace the pool in the grounds of Mt Albert Grammar School that is on borrowed time.
The first stage of the redevelopment is the only part of the local board’s master plan so far to receive council funding (drawn from developers’ compensation for burying streams elsewhere), and now needs resource consent to proceed.
But no work will start until Justice Moore gives his decision and it seems unlikely the resource consent application will be heard until that happens.
Under the plans for stage one, four holes on the existing course will be reduced in length and their layouts changed as workers begin improvements to stream and wetland areas to create public open space at the western end of the park.
The new space will be buffered from the golf course by planting along the eastern edge of the Meola Creek/Waititiko and will include a range of community facilities including a playground and BBQ area.