Bendigo Golf Club tees off on council plan

STIFLED PLANS: Club president Andrew Johnston at the Bendigo Golf Club – the club wants to use the profits of selling the Eaglehawk Golf Club to developers to redevelop its Epsom-based club. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
STIFLED PLANS: Club president Andrew Johnston at the Bendigo Golf Club – the club wants to use the profits of selling the Eaglehawk Golf Club to developers to redevelop its Epsom-based club. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

The Bendigo Golf Club is urging councillors to defy city officers when they meet on Wednesday night and allow the club to go ahead with a plan which it says will net Bendigo millions of dollars. 

The Epsom-based club merged with the Eaglehawk Golf Club in 2013 with plans of selling the latter to developers and investing the profit into Epsom to create a wold-class golfing facility. 

“We think that there is a really significant opportunity here for tourism in Bendigo and we want to do this without any government hand outs – we’re not asking for a cent of taxpayer money,” Bendigo Golf Club general manager Steven Oliver said. 

“The only support that we need is for council to move a line on a map about 100 metres or so.” 

The map Mr Oliver is referring to is on the Greater Bendigo Planning Scheme, which Greater Bendigo City Council will consider when it meets this week.

Councillors will be asked to seek the planning minister’s approval to amend the scheme to encourage infill development without expanding the urban growth boundary in the short term. 

The Eaglehawk Golf Club – currently zoned as farming land – sits just outside that boundary. The report includes it as part of an area of about 600 hectares north-west of Maiden Gully which it recommends be the city’s next growth front.

“That’s fantastic, but we can’t afford to service the debt for another 10 years,” Mr Oliver said. 

“And, if we have to offload it now, then the benefits from the land will be entirely lost to the City of Greater Bendigo forever.”

Mr Oliver said Bendigo was missing out on millions of dollars in golf tourism revenue.

“The Murray River is the number one golf destination in Australia but golfers are driving straight through Bendigo to get there,” Mr Oliver said. 

“We certainly don’t have the facilities of a Ballarat or an Echuca, or a Shepparton or a Horsham – and yet we’re supposed to be one of the key regional cities in Victoria.

“We want to develop a golf tourism destination course – what used to be known as a championship course – but we can only do that with the financial return that will come out of the sale of the Eaglehawk Golf Club land.”

Mr Oliver said the proposed redevelopment could include on course accommodation, new function rooms and training facilities and course improvements, arguing it would not only be a benefit to golfers in the region, but the city’s economy. 

“If you use Ballarat Golf Club as a model, they’ve got a similar membership base as us, they’ve got a similar history and they redeveloped about 10 years ago,” he said. 

“They now turn over about $5 million a year and employ 53 people – but they do that on the back of functions and catering, not just golf.” 

RANSACKED: Vandals ransacked the abandoned Eaglehawk Golf Club last year – Bendigo Golf Club says it wanted to incorporate the clubhouse in a proposed redevelopment of the land, but argues the slow process of rezoning contributed to levels of vandalism which have now made that scenario unlikely. Picture: DARREN HOWE

RANSACKED: Vandals ransacked the abandoned Eaglehawk Golf Club last year – Bendigo Golf Club says it wanted to incorporate the clubhouse in a proposed redevelopment of the land, but argues the slow process of rezoning contributed to levels of vandalism which have now made that scenario unlikely. Picture: DARREN HOWE

The golf club was one of 68 submissions made to Amendment C215 to the Greater Bendigo Planning Scheme which will go to council for approval this Wednesday. After it was exhibited for six weeks last year council decided the submissions should be considered by an independent panel appointed by Planning Panels Victoria, which met over several days during July, August and September last year.

The panel “strongly” supported the compact city model and backed the decision not to include the Eaglehawk Golf Club in the urban growth boundary. 

As a compromise, council officers recommended the area be included in a future growth plan. 

“This land is not needed to accommodate residential development in the short to medium term to 2024,” the report reads. 

“This land is considered as potentially suitable to meet the post 2024 – 15 year land supply category... subject to a structure planning exercise which will be undertaken as part of the lead up to the next residential strategy review scheduled to be completed and adopted by 2024 and for it to be actively considered as part of the 2024 review of the strategy.”

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