Recently STEPS was approached by some people wanting to “save Chamberlain Park”, which we found means primarily they want to retain the 18 hole golf course.
New Zealand has more golf courses per capita than any other country in the world (over 400 for a population of 4 million). The Auckland Golf Facilities Investment plan March 2016 says there are 39 golf courses in Auckland, and 85% of Auckland golf courses are 18-hole courses like Chamberlain Park. They say around 8% of people play golf, mostly older Europeans. However Chamberlain Park is one of a very few public courses with affordable fees in Auckland. Apparently about 50,000 rounds of golf are played there each year. Participation in golf is forecast to be declining rather than increasing.
Chamberlain Park is about 32 Hectares in size with an open stretch of Meola creek running through it. This is a very large green space in Albert Eden (which we understand has the least open space per capita in Auckland); in effect fewer than 50,000 people per year access this space. Albert Eden has a population of more than 95,000 people and Auckland Council tells us that 60.6% of Aucklanders engage in walking.
In 2014 the Albert Eden Local Board proposed a Chamberlain Park Redevelopment Plan (AC) which is causing controversy. The plan proposes that the golf course is reduced to 9 holes, and various other changes made to allow public access to Chamberlain Park. Proposals for change have at their heart the idea of encouraging more people to use Chamberlain Park without having to play golf. Councillor Fletcher’s view was reported in NZ Herald 2015, and subsequently the Chair of Albert Eden has published his vision for the park. The Greater Auckland blog site has published several perspectives including this Thought piece by an Auckland commentator. There are also many articles in mainstream media outlining opposition to the AELB proposal by groups who represent the status quo.
STEPS wants to see public walking access to Meola Creek, and ecological improvements such as streamside planting, to reduce the temperature of the water and increase the biodiversity. We also want to see restoration of some wetlands. These were drained during development of the golf course.
With 49% impervious surface, and large parts of the Meola catchment reliant on ‘soakage’ (ie no stormwater pipes), open space and especially wetlands will be essential to the Auckland Council’s plan to develop Meola catchment to 62.5% impervious (that is 27% more concrete and roof area than we currently have). It is well known that Meola Creek has the biggest sewage/ stormwater overflows in Auckland (see pictures here).
STEPS has previously submitted to Albert Eden Local Board asking the board to value every square meter of open space under their charge. People say “they don’t make land any more”, and we know that open space in Albert Eden is especially limited. With a view to the future (say 100 years) – we proposed they treat all open space as ‘conservation’ land, with a renewable license to sports organisations and others who should act to enhance the conservation value of the land. [By contrast we note that one of Auckland Council’s nearby tenants destroyed the remaining fragments of rock forest on their large ‘patch’ of land in the past 3-5 years.] We recommended no more reduction of open space area. This means justifying every road, every building and every hard surface we wish to put on open space, since they all add to the impervious surface and loss of ‘natural’ open space.
STEPS wants to see ecological enhancement, more wetland and more biodiversity on this open publicly owned space. We want to see a thriving stream, and we want Aucklanders to be able to enjoy it. This means granting public walking access – part of a ‘mountain to sea’ walkway from Owairaka Mt Albert to Te Tokoroa Meola Reef. We look forward to understanding whether this requires a 9 hole course or can be achieved with the current 18 hole course. STEPS will support creek and wetland restoration efforts.