The fate of a popular central Auckland golf course has finally been decided and it will be cut in half.
Last year the Albert-Eden Local Board and Auckland Council decided to reduce Chamberlain Park in Mt Albert from an 18-hole golf course down to nine holes, using the freed-up land to develop a public park.
Opposition group Save Chamberlain Park filed for a judicial review of the decision in the High Court in May 2017 and Justice Simon Moore heard arguments from both sides in February.
The proceedings challenged both Auckland Council’s decision to allocate the decision-making ability to the local board, and the steps taken by the board since.
Save Chamberlain Park questioned why the fate of a regional sporting facility was in the hands of a local board.
In 2015 the local board approved a design that included a 3.3ha park with a driving range, two multi-use sports fields, a public park and a pedestrian and cycle path through the eastern edge of the site.
There was also the possibility that Auckland Council would relocate the Mt Albert Aquatic Centre to the park.
The cost of the redevelopment was estimated to be between $8 million and $13.4m.
Save Chamberlain Park campaign chairman Geoff Senescall told Stuff the result was disappointing.
“It’s clearly disappointing and not the outcome we were hoping for,” Senescall said.
“It was always going to be tough fighting council with all its resources.”
He said the group would review the judgment in detail with its lawyers and decide whether it would appeal.
“Legalities aside, this is a significant blow for the working classes and others who rely on Chamberlain Park as a low cost and accessible place to play golf.
“It also is a blow for future generations of Aucklanders. Golf is the number one participation sport in Auckland and by Council’s own projections demand to play golf in Auckland is going to increase over the next 15 years as the population grows and diversifies.”
Senescall grew up playing golf at the park and was hopeful the 18-hole golf course would be saved. The group raised $70,000 to take the case to court.
Albert-Eden Local Board chairman Peter Haynes was pleased to hear the decision.
“It’s heartening that the High Court has found that council and the local board have done everything appropriately.
“Our actions have been rigorously tested and been found to be in accord with the legal requirements,” Haynes said.
Haynes understood some people would not be happy with the decision.
“We appreciate it is a golf course of significance to the golfers who use it. However, Auckland is changing rapidly.
“For the benefit of everyone in our growing communities, it is important to develop and share open spaces with a wider range of people,” he said.
“The recent announcement that up to 10,000 more people will be housed in just one development up the road from Chamberlain Park serves to reinforce this need in my view.”
Auckland Council had agreed not to proceed with any work at the golf course until the court had made its decision.
In Justice Moore’s decision he said the approach taken by the local board was neither “perfunctory or a mere formality”.
“It engaged in a robust process of consultation where multiple interest groups participated in an open and at times hotly contested debate concerning the best use of Chamberlain Park.
“There was no requirement for the Albert Eden Local Board to accept the views and preferences or even reach a compromise with those who sought the maintenance of the status quo,” Justice Moore said.