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Council encourages transparency for stakeholders

Council encourages transparency for stakeholders
12 March

Following the Queen Elizabeth Park Trust’s (QEPT) announcement that it is seeking a 12 month extension to its operating lease for the Blue Lake Public Golf Links to explore a new operating model, Council met confidentially with the QEPT on Wednesday 6 March 2019 to gain further insight into the operations of the golf course and its current and proposed business models. At a special meeting on Thursday 7 March 2019 Council discussed the sub leasing agreements and operations.

Council resolved to encourage the QEPT to engage in a transparent process with relevant stakeholders, including a meeting with members of the Blue Lake Golf Club.

“Council recommends that relevant information is provided to the golf club to enable an informed decision to be made on a viable operating model for the golf course,” City of Mount Gambier Deputy Mayor Sonya Mezinec said.

“This includes relevant parts of the confidential review that may be publicly disclosed, detailed financial reports for the last five years, and known and anticipated infrastructure and maintenance expenditure for the golf course.”

Council is also calling for a working party to be formed, and for the QEPT to report monthly to Council on its status.

“This is the start of the process and Council will continue to work with QEPT to understand the challenges, and canvass all available options with respect to the future of the QEPT and management of the two existing sub-leases for the golf course and caravan park.”

The QEPT is an incorporated association which manages Council owned and controlled land under lease for the purpose of operating the Blue Lake Holiday (Caravan) Park and Blue Lake Public Golf Links.

The QEPT management committee is made up of individuals nominated by the City of Mount Gambier, the Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce and one independent member. It operates independently of Council and the Chamber of Commerce.

“The QEPT informed Council about concerns regarding its ongoing financial viability late last year and Council received a copy of a confidential independent review of the Blue Lake Public Golf Links the week before last.”

The review indicates that the current grounds maintenance and other costs associated with operating the golf course are not sustainable.

The QEPT is proposing a new operating model to be explored in conjunction with Blue Lake Golf Club and Golf Australia – SA.

“Council heard that golf participation is decreasing in line with a nationwide trend and that the operating model for the Blue Lake Public Golf Links is complex and outdated and needs to be altered.”

We must not lose sight of the fact that the QEPT has effectively managed and operated the Blue Lake Public Golf Links and the Blue Lake Holiday Park for several decades. It has only been in recent times that challenges to the operating model have led to the current situation.
- City of Mount Gambier Deputy Mayor Sonya Mezinec.

“Following the independent review and assessment of the current operating model, the realisation is now clear that things must change and the impending lease expiry of 30 June 2019 was the catalyst.”

Media contact: City of Mount Gambier Media and Communications Coordinator Sharny McLean on 8721 2401 or smclean@mountgambier.sa.gov.au

FAQs

The Queen Elizabeth Park Trust (QEPT) is an incorporated association made up of three individuals nominated by the City of Mount Gambier, three individuals nominated by the Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce and one independent member.

The objectives of the QEPT include to cooperate with Council and the Chamber and assist in the promotion and development of tourism in Mount Gambier and the further development and improvements to the ‘lakes area’, in general.

The QEPT manages Council owned and controlled land under lease for the purpose of operating the Blue Lake Holiday (Caravan) Park and Blue Lake Public Golf Links.

This role includes grounds and infrastructure management and the oversight of these operations.

The QEPT has identified that the current grounds maintenance and other costs associated with operating the golf course are not sustainable as golf participation is decreasing in line with a nationwide trend.

The QEPT is proposing a new operating model to be explored in conjunction with Blue Lake Golf Club and Golf Australia – SA.

It is understood that the QEPT is seeking an initial 12 month extension to the golf course and club house lease to conduct a full review of the operations, the QEPT’s long term involvement and the viability of an alternative operating model, including the Blue Lake Golf Club.

It is proposed the QEPT work with the Blue Lake Golf Club and Golf Australia – SA to secure a viable operating model for the period post 30 June 2019.

The details of the proposed new operating model are yet to be determined. Current golf course employees and contractors may be affected by proposed changes and will be consulted with in this regard.

The details of the proposed new operating model are yet to be determined and it is not yet clear whether the model will be viable or sustainable in the short or long term. Other Mount Gambier sporting clubs operate under a similar model as that which is to be developed.

Council resolved at the special meeting on Thursday 7 March 2019 to encourage the QEPT to engage in a transparent process with relevant stakeholders, including a meeting with members of the Blue Lake Golf Club.

Council recommends that relevant information is provided to the golf club to enable an informed decision to be made on a viable operating model for the golf course.

This includes relevant parts of the confidential review that may be publicly disclosed, detailed financial reports for the last five years, and known and anticipated infrastructure and maintenance expenditure for the golf course.

Council is also calling for a working party to be formed, and for the QEPT to report monthly to Council on its status.

The land would revert to Council’s care, control and management as owner/custodian. Council would consider alternate uses of the golf course land in such circumstances.

As Crown Land, the portion of the golf course located on the crater edge would at least be maintained as passive open space.

This would be a matter for discussion between the Blue Lake Golf Club and the Mount Gambier Golf Club. Council may be able to facilitate such discussions if the parties were agreeable.

The Blue Lake Holiday Park is managed under a separate long term commercial arrangement. It is not anticipated that the proposed new operating model for the golf course will have any direct or substantial impact on the Blue Lake Holiday Park.

The operator works under a 5-year sub-lease arrangement which is also due to expire on June 30 2019. Given that this is a private venture, the operator will need to negotiate their own new terms with whichever leaseholder is appointed to manage the golf links next financial year.

Many member-based sporting clubs assume responsibility for their facility. Typically, these clubs are on long-term lease arrangements and assume full responsibility for the maintenance, development and operations. Dependent on local-market conditions, and to ensure ongoing viability, the leadership of the club will be encouraged to develop the expertise essential to successfully manage, develop and provide a contemporary golf facility.

The review contains highly sensitive confidential information relating to the financial performance of other clubs besides the Blue Lake Public Golf Links, and the QEPT is not legally permitted to release this information.

Combined, Blue Lake Public Golf Links and Mount Gambier Golf Club have 590 affiliated golfers (adult and junior). This represents a significant portion (36%) of the South East region’s affiliated golfer population.