Fri, May 17, 2024 12:38 PM

Golf club faces ‘existential’ threat from runway extension


Max Frethey - Local Democracy Reporter

The Nelson Golf Club has made its case for survival as it faces an “existential” threat from Nelson Airport's plans to extend its runway north.

“The golf club will cease to exist if the airport company’s proposal proceeds,” the golf club’s counsel, Richard Fowler, told the commissioners overseeing the hearing on Wednesday.

The airport is seeking to gain the necessary planning and zoning framework to extend its runway to improve safety, and better cater for future growth and next-generation, low-emission aircraft.

The development of an extended runway is not expected to begin for another 10-15 years.

However, the golf club is located north of the airport and the proposal would cut the club “in two” so it would lose the land that contains its clubhouse, carpark, shop, caretaker’s house, greenkeeper’s and maintenance sheds, and irrigation pond.

The hearing for airport’s private plan change request and notice of requirement began on Monday and concludes on Friday.

On Monday, the airport’s expert recreation witness, Jennifer Benden, presented her evidence to the commissioners.

While she acknowledged that the airport’s proposal would have a “significant” impact on the golf club, she thought it was “plausible” the club could survive but also asserted that if the golf club closed, it would have a “minor” impact on golfing in the region due to the other 18-hole golf courses at Greenacres and Motueka.

Benden’s view was rejected by the club’s leadership and members on Wednesday who added that the club had a large regional impact that extended far beyond golf.

“The recreational side of things, if it was to be lost, locally, would be enormous,” golf club manager Tony Watkins said.

The Nelson Golf Club is the only 18-hole championship links golf course in the Nelson area, he said.

“We hold national events there, there are no other golf courses in the top of the South Island that hold national events.”

Club president Derek Drysdale added that the club was “outraged” by the airport’s proposal.

He told commissioners that the club has more than 700 members but said that there are up to another 10,000 visitors who play at their facilities each year.

The clubhouse is also used by 88 community groups, totalling about 2500 members, and charity events are regularly held at the club, with about $300,000 being raised each year, Drysdale said.

Fowler said the golf club was willing to work with the airport to “reconfigure” the golf course along the peninsula west of the current runway to offset the loss of its other land.

The Tāhunanui Business and Citizens Association also presented to the hearings panel on Wednesday.

“We value the airport as our neighbour and we don’t wish to stymie it’s potential,” said chair Jacinda Stevenson.

However, she said Tāhunanui was more deprived than other areas of Nelson and she was concerned that the additional noise and development constraints enabled by the changes being sought by the airport would further disadvantage the suburb and contribute to its “ghettoization”.

Local Democracy Reporting is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.
Nelson App is owned by Top South Media. a locally owned media company.