This opinion piece was published in the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday 10th January.
Let's set the facts straight; the Albert-Eden Local Board is not removing golf from Chamberlain Park. That was never on the agenda. We understand the significance sport plays in the community.
Our plans replace the current 18-hole golf course with a higher-quality, nine-hole course. Then we want to repurpose land into a public park, playing fields, new walking and cycling paths and an aquatic centre, because the current swimming pool in Mt Albert must move.
It's wrong to say the golfing amenities get chopped in half. Part of the park will be used for a driving range and a learners' facility. The golfing facilities will span 20ha, with 14ha available for recreational use.
Auckland's population soaring
Auckland is growing at a phenomenal rate. Public space and land is now a luxury on the isthmus and Albert-Eden has the largest shortfall in capacity for sports fields (with adjacent Waitemata Local Board having the second largest) and the two boards have the lowest amount of public space per capita in the region.
More than 5000 residents are expected to be housed in one development near Chamberlain Park alone.
I understand the frustration the golfing fraternity has with potentially losing nine holes, but what about the wider community that will benefit from the new area?
Sports teams, families, mothers walking their babies, schools and others could all possibly enjoy the new space.
Golfers aren't excluded
Golfers who want to play 18-holes can play nine holes twice. There's also a stronger demand for nine-hole courses in New Zealand. How did we get to this situation? When Auckland Council took over the operation of Chamberlain Park a few years back, we had the chance to review the best use of this open space. We discovered play on the course has been declining year-on-year since 2000, and this trend is set to continue.
Twice (2014 and 2015) the Albert-Eden Local Board consulted to investigate a wider range of purposes for Chamberlain - and we agreed on the basis of these consultations to proceed with a master plan.
In August 2015, the Chamberlain Park Master Plan laid out suggestions for a nine-hole golf course, driving range, practice area and beginners golf area. Other amenities in the plan include a playground, recreation area, barbecues, community garden, restored wetlands and stream and two new artificial sports fields.
More public space needed
We've put a lot of energy into upgrading sports fields in Albert-Eden, but the opportunities are few. Our sports clubs are queuing to use the new sports fields. Our problem is most of our fields are on small parks or close to neighbours.
The cycling community will also benefit, with plans for a new shared path linking the Northwestern Cycleway, through to Rawalpindi Reserve and the local road network.
We don't intend to slice up the course at the first chance we get either. The redevelopment will be carefully managed, with stage one only slightly shortening the course, but still allowing for 18 holes.
Budget is another area that needs clarification. It was reported $30 million will be spent on the upgrade. The projected total is closer to $10m. The confusion around the additional $20 million may be attributed to the replacement location for the Mt Albert Aquatic Centre.
There's a possibility the centre could be relocated to Chamberlain Park in the next five to 10 years, while Auckland Council builds a replacement, which would cost between $15m and $20m.
There has never been any thought to subdivide, destroy or remove golf completely from Chamberlain Park. To cater for a growing city - one that cherishes parks, playgrounds and public spaces - we will retain part of the course, and open up additional land for the public.
I know that most residents have looked past the potential removal of nine holes for a new park that enriches and rewards our community for generations to come.