Council eyes cut to costly golf links

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 13/08/2014
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The city council has spent nearly $5.4 million of public money on international golf tournaments over the past decade.

Council staff say the investment is justified as the tournaments have injected about $70m into the local economy, but some councillors are unhappy with the spending and are now pushing for the council to cut its golfing ties.

Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck told The Press yesterday the council was contractually committed to the New Zealand Women's Open for the next two years but she would not support any council sponsorship of major golf tournaments beyond that.

"It's been incredibly expensive and not actually accessible to a huge number of people," Buck said.

The council's investment in golf began 12 years ago with the New Zealand PGA in 2002. It has been a key sponsor of golf events since 2004, sponsoring the PGA championships up until 2009 and the New Zealand Women's Open from 2009 to 2014. It also sponsored the New Zealand Men's Open in 2011 and 2012.

In recent years each championship has cost the council about $450,000.

Buck said she did not believe the expense was justified.

"That is two-and-a-half times what we pay for the Buskers Festival and that is a free event that is totally accessible," she pointed out.

Council sports services manager Kevin Collier defended the council's investment in golf, saying it was not only good for the sport but good for business.

Economic impact assessments commissioned by the council suggested the golfing tournaments held in Christchurch over the past decade had pumped about $70m into the economy. They had also brought the city national and international media coverage.

"It's a pretty good return on the investment," Collier said.

Cr Phil Clearwater questioned the robustness of the economic impact assessments but was assured by Collier they were independently done by reputable market research companies.

If anything the figures were conservative, Collier said.

Community committee chairman Cr Yani Johanson said the council had invested heavily in golf over the past 10 years but this was the first time any analysis of the benefits of that investment had been presented to elected members.

In light of the financial issues the council was facing it was important councillors understood where money was being invested and what the returns were, he said.

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- The Press

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