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Council mulling golf course buy

SWDC discussed purchasing the Featherston Golf Club for wastewater irrigation at its full council meeting on Wednesday. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
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The pros and cons of buying Featherston Golf Club for wastewater irrigation were considered by South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] this week.

Public were excluded from the discussion at Wednesday’s meeting, so it is not known whether the council will be putting in an offer on the 18-hole course, for which tenders close next Thursday.

But it appears it had the chance to lease the land cheaply before it went up for sale.

Former councillor Dayle Harwood, who resigned in April, said yesterday the issue was one of the reasons he left the council, and described it as a missed opportunity.

To clean up waterways, SWDC is working towards irrigating all the district’s wastewater to land by 2040.

It is already discharging to land in Martinborough and Greytown.

SWDC purchased Hodder Farm in 2014 to take Featherston’s treated effluent, but this proposal has been met with considerable opposition from residents who live near the site, on Murphy’s Line and Longwood Rd East.

Yesterday, council chief executive Paul Crimp would not confirm whether SWDC was looking to the golf club to appease the people responsible for almost 160 submissions against its resource consent application to Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] for irrigation on Hodder Farm.

The golf club, which is set on 32.82 hectares of land, is up for sale following a fall in membership.

Crimp said he understood the club had been struggling so last year he discussed with Mayor Viv Napier, a proposition to lease the land for wastewater irrigation.

The SWDC would have paid $20,000 per year for the land, which was understood to be the club’s annual financial shortfall, and the amount discussed with the club, he said.

“The council went through the discussions with the golf club, and the golf club decided at the end of the day, because they would have to mow a whole lot more grass as it would be growing more with the irrigation, that financially there was no benefit.”

Crimp said mowing costs could cost $25,000 and it was the golf club’s decision not to go ahead with the plan.

However, Featherston Golf Club captain Charlie Fairbrother said that was not how he recalled events.

“The council said they’d wait until they’d finished getting resource consent for their current scheme, and then they’d come back to us.”

Aside from the 152 submissions that opposed SWDC’s Featherston resource consent application, GWRC has pushed out the hearings process five months due to “issues which need to be resolved”.

Fairbrother said, considering these complications in the consent, it would make sense for the council to buy the course.

He said the club had discussions with the council about purchasing the land well before it was put on the market, with the rateable value of $1,020,000.

Harwood said the leasing agreement would have been a “win-win” scenario.

“The course would have been guaranteed survival and council would have been able to use land [for wastewater irrigation] and remove the need for land close to the subdivision on Murphy’s Line.”

Harwood’s replacement, Ross Vickery, challenged the council about discussing the matter behind closed doors at Wednesday’s meeting.

Crimp said this led to an “important” debate in which good points were raised.

“We need to make sure that there is transparency around the process of going into public excluded.”

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