Australia

The golf war will be the great gulf of Sydney

Stand by Sydney. If the history of our fair city has been a saga of struggles – Natives v Settlers, Protestants v Catholics, East v West, Workers v Pinstripes, Lattes v Late for the day shift, ALP v LNP, Developers v Everyone – I do believe this very week has just seen the formal beginnings of an entirely new battlefront that has been bubbling under for some time.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore this week at Moore Park Golf Course Driving Range, with high-rise development for a growing population in the background.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore this week at Moore Park Golf Course Driving Range, with high-rise development for a growing population in the background. Credit: Wolter Peeters

Think of it as Golfers v Non-Golfers. The issue is the amount of public land set aside for public golf courses in a city with an ever more teeming population, in ever more need of open rambling space. The one to fire the first shot was Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, announcing the decision by her council on Monday evening to begin trying to halve the size of Moore Park Golf Course so as to give that land back from golfers to people who wouldn’t know a birdie from a bogey, but who have a greater need for the public land.

“The Redfern part of Moore Park is absolutely buzzing with people and you just look across the fence to the golf course and there might be two or three golfers in there,” Moore, told the Herald. “There has been tremendous pressure on our parks right across the metropolitan area. It is vital that this land is shared with the broader community.”

Ah, but she was just warming up, noting they will shortly be taking a proposal to Planning Minister Rob Stokes to make it happen.

“Twenty million people visit the Centennial and Moore [Park] parklands annually,” the Lord Mayor noted, “while just 60,000 rounds of golf are played on the course each year. All of those tall towers that are being approved as part of Green Square overlook this green open space, and the public can't use it generally.”

A fair point, yes?

That curious swishing sound you hear is whole battalions of public golfers girding their loins, insisting that the 16 public golf courses in Sydney are sacrosanct and must not be touched. It will be a battle that will likely run for years. But in the end, watch this space: that space filled by the aforementioned Green Square development around Zetland, which over the next decade will have a population density 12 times that of New York.

In the end, the pressure of a growing population will mean that the authorities will inevitably bow to an incontrovertible logic: large public land must be put to the best use for the public at large, and with so many competing demands we can expect to see some of Sydney’s public golf courses – including Moore Parke – given back to rambling, cycle paths, public pools, basketball courts and even community vegie patches.

When I talked to Lord Mayor Moore on Friday afternoon, she was expecting opposition, but resolute on seeing it through. “It is not a matter of taking golf away from people,” she insisted. “It is a matter of sharing public land.” How long might it take? “That will depend on the willingness of government, and Minister Stokes – and the western half of the golf course would have to be reconfigured – but it could be done in about a year, maybe a little longer.”

Expect a genteel civil war between those who get the logic of it, and those who don’t care because they just love golf too much to countenance such a change. Even the two Liberal councillors in the meeting that passed the motion on Monday evening were split, with the one who voted against it being a golfer. Let the game begin. Fore!

SNEER MISS

No, in this last week of Alan Jones’ reign on 2GB’s breakfast radio airwaves I am not going to put half a column to sneering unpleasantly, and you can’t make me. Instead, I might just note that it will be interesting to see which of our esteemed public figures join the talkback queues to bid him a fond farewell. Interesting, indeed.

Alan Jones ... his last week on air.

Alan Jones ... his last week on air.Credit:James Brickwood

REMINISCENCE OF THE WEEK

Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life. As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Nova Scotia back country. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn’t stop for directions.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologised to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play. The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before for this homeless man. And as I played Amazing Grace, the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head was hung low, my heart was full. As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I've never seen anything like that before, and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.” Apparently, I'm still lost . . . it's a man thing.

WHAT THEY SAID

“If there's a push for a pay increase, the message from the unions is they don't want people to have jobs. If they go look the word crisis up in a dictionary they'll learn something . . . if you look out the window you can see people are losing jobs. Come September there will be a lot of people put out of work.” - Peter Strong, Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chief executive, astounded, astounded I tell you, that unions are trying to secure a higher minimum wage during the coronavirus pandemic as tensions rise over the best way to help workers and revive the economy.

“A bike lane across the Harbour Bridge is a fantastic idea. It would make a huge statement, as well as creating one of the world's great urban bike paths. Sydney is at a crossroads – we can choose more cars and congestion or healthier, active transport. If we create a network of safe places for people to cycle, it will make city life better for many generations to come.” - Gabriel Metcalf, chief executive of Committee for Sydney, which consists of local councils, universities and government agencies, and is backing calls for a lane of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to be set aside for cyclists as the city braces for the resurgence of the daily commute.

“It serves no purpose for a scattered and long, drawn-out approach to the removal of state and territory borders. If it is good enough to have a beer or a meal in a socially distant setting across all states and territories, it surely is good enough to have clearly articulated and declared dates for hard border lifting?” - Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk suggested her state might not open its borders until September.

“I just want to save lives. I don’t want to see a mass transit system in Australia, in Sydney, a global city, drive the infection rate and people die.” - NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance as the government announced strict new social-distancing measures on public transport. Just 12 people will be allowed on a bus and 32 in a train carriage as the government works to maintain strict physical distancing of 1.5 metres on the network. Green stickers will be plastered to seats on public transport, indicating where commuters can sit at a safe distance.

“At the end of the day we're going to have to do better than just green dots and goodwill.” - NSW Opposition transport spokesman Chris Minns.

“I saw the whale and I thought, ‘That is pretty cool.’ Then I saw he was in the net and I thought, ‘That is not cool.'" - A man who goes by the name of “Django”, after rescuing a whale calf trapped in nets off the Gold Coast, by using his knife to free the baby whale’s pectoral fin from the net, which was cutting into its flesh.

“Social Distancing Since 1965” - A sign outside the Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In theatre in North Ridgeville, Ohio, which reopened this week, even though movie attendance was limited to 25 per cent of the usual capacity.

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