Ratepayers Association “totally blindsided” by options over future of Matarangi golf course

30 Mar 2021

The Matarangi Ratepayers Association says it has been totally blindsided by options put forward by Thames-Coromandel District Council in its draft Long Term Plan 2021-2031 over the future of the town’s golf course. “We are very angry,” association chair Mark Bedford told The Informer. “The three options don’t reflect the discussions that council agreed to initiate with us for 12 months.”

Mr Bedford said there was a lack of openness, transparency and good faith on the part of council.

There are three options on the table regarding the open space in Matarangi, including the golf course. The course is at the moment owned by a group of Matarangi ratepayers in a company known as Matarangi Land Holdings Limited (MLHL)

The first option is council doing nothing, not buying the open space, and MLHL continuing to fund any shortfalls in operating the golf course. This is TCDC’s preferred option.

The second option is a combined targeted and general rate for TCDC to buy the land for $2.26 million with $260,000 of the purchase price to be raised through Matarangi community fundraising and council taking on an additional $2 million of debt. Under the option, the Matarangi community will also fund the golf course operating costs, which TCDC is estimating to be $210,000 a year, through a targeted rate.

The third option is also for council to buy the land for $2.26 million, but the additional $2 million of debt to be taken on by council to be spread around all the ratepayers in the Thames-Coromandel District. As is the case in Option 2, the estimated $210,000 a year to operate the golf course will be the funded by the Matarangi community through a targeted rate.

If Option 2 is chosen, Matarangi houesholds will face and extra $156.04 a year on their rates and all other Coromandel ratepayers will face an additional $2.19. If Option 3 is selected, the figure payable by Matarangi ratepayers will be an extra $123.39 a year and all other property owners in the Thames-Coromandel District will pay an additional $4.39.

Mr Bedford said that the ratepayers association, the recently formed Matarangi Community Trust and MLHL held discussions with TCDC at the most senior level to make sure that the open space could be protected in perpetuity from the decades-long risk of being subdivided for residential development. The outcome of those discussions was an agreement to work together to solve a history of “muck-ups” by council over the years by failing to register encumbrances against the land.

He said the tripartite group along with council came up with two options similar to Options 2 and 3. “Then out of the blue Option 1 came in without consultation with the community which is a total about-face from the position given by council’s audit committee and accepted by council. They have gone from wanting to work with us to wanting to do nothing.”

He said that their proposal had been for the land to be owned jointly by TCDC and the Matarangi Community Trust for the community, not by council alone. “We’ve never envisaged council owning the land. We never, ever talked about ownership being vested into council. “Who would sell something for less than was paid by MLHL, when they rescued the land from the previous owner who wanted to subdivide it because the open space had not been protected through TCDC’s failings over the years?”

He said the latest council valuation of the land was in excess of $3 million, well above the $2.26 million being suggested in Options 2 and 3.

Mr Bedford said the Matarangi Ratepayers Association only learned of the changes from what had previously been agreed with TCDC in the past couple of weeks. Now it was too late in the piece to do anything about it, as the draft Long Term Plan consultation process had already started. “They have turned a piece of work into something with a different outcome and we have no option but to try to get the best of a bad bunch, and we are asking people to support Options 2 or 3, but definitely not Option 1.

“And either of those options, if they are supported by TCDC, we will then have to negotiate with council to work out the detail.”

According to the Matarangi Ratepayers Association, over the 50 years since Matarangi was established, TCDC has “repeatedly failed to protect Matarangi amenities and open space.”

For decades, it says, the community has fought to protect the golf course and other open spaces from residential subdivision and in 2018/2019 a successful Environment Court case saw the land have its open space zoning confirmed. However, the zoning does not provide permanent protection and only covenants being registered on the land titles would prevent residential subdivision. Without them, the association says, a new owner could apply to have the zoning changed.

With that concern in mind, in September 2019 a group of 21 Matarangi property owners set up MLHL to buy the golf course as a first step to bringing it into community ownership.

MRAI is disputing TCDC’s estimate of $210,000 a year to operate the golf course. Those operating costs would be for a community centre and reserve land maintenance, not for the operation of the golf course, it says.

TCDC’s preferred option to do nothing and not proceed with the purchase of the open space is based on its draft Long Term Plan 2021-2031 being a “no frills” budget which does not include “purchasing this land to provide additional recreational space in Matarangi.”