Golf courses call to be essential or face $10m 'catastrophic turf death'

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Apr 2020, 3:29PM
Golf courses are not allowed to have a single maintenance worker tending to the course during the lockdown. Above, the Wainui golf course. Photo / Wynne Gray

Golf courses call to be essential or face $10m 'catastrophic turf death'

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Apr 2020, 3:29PM

Golf courses across New Zealand are calling for an essential service exemption as they face the "risk of catastrophic turf death" amounting to $10 million.

New Zealand Golf chief executive Dean Murphy says they have put in a request to the Government for an exemption that permits the "essential maintenance" of golf facilities.

Sports facilities are not on the essential services list as it stands - and golf courses are not allowed to have a single maintenance worker tending to the course.

"There is a risk of catastrophic turf death on putting greens due to disease, insect activity and lack of water. If this occurs the consequences could be major for our golf facilities – the cost of repair plus loss of business could be well in excess of $10 million," Murphy said.

'While the playing of golf is non-essential during this crisis, if critical parts of golf facilities do not receive some basic maintenance over the shutdown period, the task of repatriating to current conditions may not be achievable nor affordable for a great number of clubs.

"Growth on most of the grass surfaces can be brought back under control after a period of non-maintenance, however on fine turf surfaces this could be a difficult and protracted process."

On March 31, the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Grant Robertson, responded to questions from National's Nikki Kaye on the possibility of golf course maintenance becoming an essential service.

Robertson said he had been advised of the economic implications if golf courses and other turf based sports, including national stadiums, if turf maintenance was not regularly completed.

"My officials at Sport NZ have raised the issues with the Ministry of Innovation, Business and Employment (MBIE)," Robertson said.

"If maintenance of these areas were to become an essential service there will be clear restrictions for the health and safety of the community and turf management workers."

Robertson said Sport NZ was expecting to receive a response from MBIE "shortly" on whether a golf course essential service exemption could be made.

National's sport and recreation spokesman Nikki Kaye said yesterday the Government was taking too long in making a decision on the turf maintenance exemption.

"The minister said a week ago work was going on regarding this," Kaye said.

"The Government is effectively causing millions in damage when the reality is we are talking often one person being able to go onsite or in some situations lives on site to do essential maintenance.

"The Government needs to move on this issue – the current decision is not a smart one.

"If we don't, when restrictions are lifted around physical activity, a lot of people will not be able to go to their local club because there will have to be a whole lot of repairs which clubs can't necessarily afford."

According to Golf NZ, over 2000 people are employed in the New Zealand golf sector and it contributes over $1 billion to the national economy each year.

New Zealand has in excess of 400 golf courses, facilities and venues.

All operations and play at New Zealand Golf courses, facilities and venues has now ceased for the Covid-19 shutdown period.