Wellington ratepayers could be forking out for a golf course as the regional council looks at a multi-million-dollar bailout of a Hutt Valley club.
Manor Park Golf Club, which has produced prestigious players and hosted national and provincial golfing events has fallen on tough times.
This prompted a financial SOS to the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) to buy the land then lease it back to them.
The Manor Park Golf Course runs alongside the Hutt River and it is understood the council’s interest in the land relates to flood protection.
The accounts of the Manor Park Golf Club, filed with the Registrar of Incorporated Societies, show they do not have enough money to pay their creditors, or service their bank loan in the short term.
The only saleable asset is the Golf Club’s land, which is recorded as having a value of $2m.
Wellington Regional Council chairman Chris Laidlaw said no decision had been made and council staff were still talking to the other players.
A public excluded agenda item (Lower Hutt property purchase) was tabled for the council to discuss last week but was withdrawn from that meeting. It is understood it included the buy and leaseback proposal.
Sources have told Stuff it is by no means certain GWRC will buy the prime riverside land the course occupies, then lease it back.
Councillors could see the course as offering more benefit to the community for social housing, given a perceived lack of houses in Wellington.
Manor Park members were also told of a possible merger with nearby Royal Wellington Golf Club, which needs 200 more members.
In contrast, the Hutt Valley has nine golf courses and easy access to two more on the road to Porirua.
It is understood council proponents say possible acquisition would be for flood protection.
Wellington Regional Council chairman Chris Laidlaw said the council did not enjoy buying land but when it did, it had a purpose.
In this case it would be to “allow the river to do what it had to do and provide a buffer”.
No decision had been made and staff were still talking to the other players. There was no indication if a deal would be struck, he said.
“It depends on other players … we will wait and see what emerges.”
Councillor Prue Lamason, who is understood to be pushing for the deal, said she was not prepared to comment on it.
Last week the Manor Park members were also told of a possible merger with nearby Royal Wellington Golf Club, which needs 200 more members.
It is understood the clubs were on the verge of agreeing a merger when the Royal was advised, at the last minute, about a purchase by GWRC potentially being on the table.
Manor Park general manager Steve Wallace said he would not comment on confidential discussions.
On Friday, Manor Park president Craig Berridge sent a message to members informing them the operating loss suffered, in the year ending 31 March 2018.
It led to much debate around the board table about the future of the club, its structure and mode of operation, he said.
In the course of the last few months the board had started talking to other golf clubs about the future of golf in the area – including the Royal.
“It would make sense that a combined club would be based there and ultimately our land at Manor Park sold,” he said in his letter.
The club was also examining other options that would see it stay in the current location, he said.
“To some extent, these have distracted us from our conversation with Royal. However, they must be examined as we consider all possible options.”
Captain of the Royal Wellington Golf Club Barry Brown said nothing had been agreed between the clubs.
“They are considering all their options – and we are one.
“We are open to further discussions with Manor Park.”