Monday, November 23, 2015

Let the rich pay for their own golf courses

Over the weekend, Bernard Hickey pointed out an unpalatable truth: the Auckland Council is giving massive subsidies to the rich. How? By subsidising golf courses:

Did you know that 1400 members of the Remuera Golf Club receive the exclusive benefit of a piece of Auckland Council-owned land valued at up to $517 million?

The club pays rates of $130,000 a year. If up to 70 per cent of that land was broken up and sold for housing and the rest left in parks, it would produce revenues of $16.5 million a year.

That's an annual subsidy of $16.37 million, or $11,700 a member. That includes Prime Minister John Key, who is an honorary member.

Even if each member played 50 rounds a year, that would be a subsidy of $233 per round or $13 a hole.

This is obscene. It is also, in a city facing a serious housing crisis, absolutely unjustifiable. And unfortunately, its a common problem across the country. Here in Palmerston North, for example, the rich are subsidised through rates rebates - which until recently were denied to charities serving the poor.

Cities need public spaces. But golf courses aren't public spaces. Instead, they're exclusive preserves of the well-to-do, the New Zealand equivalent of a medieval English forest. That would be fine of their rich members were paying for them, but they're not. We're paying for it. And we shouldn't be. Auckland should either redevelop its golf courses, or sell them. Either way, the rich can pay for their land-hungry snob-clubs themselves.