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Lockdown use as public open space sees residents call for Melbourne golf course to be repurposed as parkland

Lockdown use as public open space sees residents call for Melbourne golf course to be repurposed as parkland
December 8, 2020

Increased use of areas of green space in metropolitan Melbourne during the city’s Coronavirus lockdown over recent months has led to calls for the Northcote Public Golf Course to be permanently repurposed as parkland.

With Melbourne residents banned from travelling beyond a 5 kilometre radius of their homes and golf courses closed for play, people increased their use of open spaces during the limited time they were allowed outside for exercise.

Like many golf courses, the public began using the Northcote course, generally in the allowable groups of five.

As of July, City of Darebin Councillor Trent McCarthy negotiated an agreement between the Council and operator Leisure Management Services (LMS) to open the course to the public during lockdown restrictions - with a footbridge connecting the suburb of Brunswick to the course also opened.

As lockdown restrictions have eased, local residents have been calling for the nine-hole, 25-hectare course to be permanently repurposed as a public park.

A community group on Facebook, Reclaim Northcote Golf Course For Public Open Space, has been established canvassing a wide range of views for the area.

Explaining local sentiment, Councillor McCarthy told the Guardian Australia “I have met people who have been enjoying it during COVID who lived just a couple of streets away and who have never been inside until word started to spread about it during COVID, and a campaign gained momentum to repurpose the space.”

With the course technically closed to the public outside hours, McCarthy noted “Council is negotiating with LMS at the moment for a way to keep it open for both golfers and the public to use when restrictions ease, with a mix of golf hours and park hours.”

An analysis of green space conducted by Griffith and LaTrobe Universities found of the 42,199 residential mesh blocks (typically containing between 30 and 60 homes) under Stage Four restrictions, 3,500 had between zero and 4.5 kilometre² of parkland within 5 kilometres.

The researchers advised “this equates to about 135,000 homes or 340,000 people with little or no access to parks within their permitted area for exercising.”

Other golf courses have been used heavily by the public during lockdown, including Royal Park golf course located 3 kilometres from the city.

Advising that the course was not fenced off before COVID, and the public and golfers had always shared the space respectfully, Dr Wendy Walls a lecturer in landscape architectural design at the University of Melbourne, noted “Northcote has always been fenced and you’re not supposed to go on it and so it sets up a different precedent and pressure (compared with) other golf courses.

“But it is possible to have respectful and collaborative conversations about what the space is for and how we might negotiate different terms of use.”

Local MP Kat Theophanous has proposed turning the Northcote Golf Course into a six-hole design, saying the move would give golfers certainty, create a significant new park and stop any chance of some of the land being developed for housing if the course was abandoned for golfing.

Theophanous said shortening the course while keeping the remaining six holes for golf "would avoid safety concerns" of an attempt to have golf on some days, and park use on others, as well as ensuring the fairways and greens were kept to a playable standard.

Image: Northcote Public Golf Course from the air. Credit: Leisure Management Services.

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1st October 2020 - Golf Australia reveals golf to be experiencing a pandemic-inspired boom

28th August 2020 - Construction set to start on Darebin Multi-Sports Stadium

2nd August 2020 - Activities halted and facilities closed as Victorian Government introduces Stage four Coronavirus lockdown in Melbourne

30th July 2020 - Golf community gives financial support to clubs affected by bushfires

22nd July 2020 - Australian Golf Industry Council releases report highlighting golf courses’ role in environmental sustainability

8th July 2020 - Golf can play on through new Melbourne lockdown

13th March 2019 - Australian Golf Industry Council reports positive trend in competition rounds

17th April 2019 - Threatened Sydney Northern Beaches golf club secures new long term lease

20th February 2018 - 18-hole golf course to be retained at Melbourne’s Albert Park

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