What future for Gulf Harbour Country Club golf course land after developer purchase?

Locals are worried about the future of Gulf Harbour Country Club golf course land after a corporate transfer to interests associated with developer Greg Olliver.

Neighbours, a real estate specialist and school staff contacted the Herald, asking about development plans for the site and seeking new information about development potential.

But Olliver isn’t commenting on the purchase or what plans he might have for the 89ha site valued by Auckland Council in 2017 at $18.3 million.

On Saturday, the Herald reported the property had changed hands.

Chris Darby, Auckland Council’s planning committee chairman and one of two North Shore councillors, said it was possible for a landowner to seek consent to develop the golf course land under a plan change process.

That means the owner goes to the council to seek a new use for the property, gaining consent for purposes which the real estate is not used for currently.

“When I read of the buyer move on Gulf Harbour Country Club I immediately thought they might have eyes on the development potential of the course land. The Auckland Unitary Plan though identifies the land as open space – sport and active recreation zone not housing,” Darby emphasised.

The Pupuke Golf Club, Takapuna Golf Club, Chamberlain Park and Remuera Golf Club land all had the same zoning as Gulf Harbour Country Club, Darby said.

“On the other hand, the Grange Golf Club is currently zoned residential – mixed housing urban, with a private plan change application from the club being processed to change this to open space,” Darby said.

The current zoning of the Gulf Harbour Country Club land, in full or part, would likely require the progressing of a private plan change to enable housing development, Darby said.

The Resource Management Act allowed for an applicant to follow that process but it is by no means straightforward, and it should not be assumed that it would be successful, he said.

“If a private plan change application was lodged it would most likely be publicly notified. Assessment of the plan change would be under the provisions of the RMA and AUP, and take into account any resource management decisions that led to the current zoning,” he said.

Property records show that in late 2012 Long River Investments Corporation bought 180 Gulf Harbour Dr, which is where the Gulf Harbour Country Club is situated. The purchase price back then was $12.8m.

Long River was until last month owned by Yi Li of Mt Eden but Olliver took control on July 23 through The Phoenix Trust.

One landowner who recently bought beside the golf course now feels uncertain.

“We’re not sure what’s going to happen,” he said.

Wentworth Private School at 95 Gulf Harbour Dr has also been contacted by people concerned about development. People there were similarly worried about what might happen to the golf course land, one person at the school said.

Several colleagues and parents were asking questions. The area didn’t have the infrastructure for housing and intensifying development would lose the magic of the area, one person there said.

“It takes a long time to get onto the motorway and a long time to get off,” that person said.

The school runs a golf scholarship in conjunction with the club so links between the two entities are strong.

One real estate specialist in the area said a retirement village might be being planned.

“There is a credible report that there is a retirement village planned on the course but if allowed to proceed, it would be a travesty,” the specialist said.

“At Gulf Harbour we have endured intensive housing in many streets: Alverna Heights, Ta Moko Dr, Harwich Ct, Whale Bay Dr, Cape Cod Dr, Barcliff Tce, Trimaran Dr, Nautilus Dr, Quarter Deck Lane, Voyager Dr, Greenway Rise, Maylee Cres, Keepers Dr, Clea View, Midshipman Ct, Buccaneer Ct, Waterside Cres, Harbour Village Dr, Laurie Southwick Pde, Gulf Harbour Dr and Alec Craig Way.

“The green space golf course was always accepted as the green offset for the previous intensive stages. There are already existing areas that have now been rezoned for terraced housingand apartments,” he said.

“The retirement village plans are described as being on the 2nd, 7th and 9th holes around the lake,” he added.

Hundreds of properties had been purchased at a premium on the expectation that robust zoning would protect the amenity that the enduring green open space provides, he said.

People in the area were angry about potential development of the golf course, he said.

“The end of a peninsula is not the place for intensive development. The ferry is not the answer. It is weather dependent and basically only commutes to Britomart,” he said.

Precedent does exist to develop housing on golf courses.

The Herald has, for example, reported on Fletcher Residential building on what was the Manukau Golf Course.

That club was moved to Ardmore but course neighbours were loud in their objections.

Max Byrnes, a Manukau Golf Club neighbour, said in 2013 that he feared for the Conifer Grove area due to Fletcher’s move.

As the owner of a Keywella Drive house overlooking the course, which the club sold for more than $40m, he worried last decade about the effects of a growing population on the roads, schooling, the extensive native shore bird population and residents’ quality of life.

Waiata Shores is the result.

In 2015, Fletcher Living signed a conditional agreement to sell 5.5ha of land on that course to Metlifecare for a retirement village.

The land was at the north end near Great South Rd.

Fletcher bought the golf course in 2013, then won consent to build 479 houses on its land, raising the ire of neighbours who said they had enjoyed wide views and greens which were kept in a pristine state.

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