The future of Magpies Belconnen Golf Course has been uncertain for the past few years with the high cost of non-potable water impacting on the operation’s viability.
With the land owned by Woodhaven Investments, the Magpies club has operated the lease for more than 20 years.
There was optimism a review of water costs in Canberra would result in a resolution, but with the lease expiring on 31 March 2023 and with no further options of an extension, the club has informed its golf members it will not be in a position to seek a new lease from 1 April next year.
The club has cited the inequitable and unaffordable supply of non-potable water as a significant factor in its decision.
The cost of treated water to irrigate the course has been increasing on average by about 20 per cent per annum.
ACT Government-owned Icon Water billed the Magpies $160,000 over the 2019/2020 summer, charging the club $2.40 per kilolitre for non-potable water.
It’s understood most other golf clubs in the ACT are paying 15 cents per kilolitre or less for non-potable water through the ACT Government Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
However, Icon Water provides the infrastructure and uphill pumping of water to the Magpies Belconnen Golf Club, which it says makes it not comparable to clubs that provide their own infrastructure and pay only a water abstraction charge.
The findings of the ACT Government’s long-promised Water Review were released in December 2021 but they did not include a recommendation for non-potable water pricing.
The ACT Government’s non-potable water review looked at the issue of cost and price of providing these services.
An Icon Water spokesperson said the review found that Icon Water’s prices for recycled water supplied from Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre were cost reflective.
“A primary principle is to ensure that the price customers pay for a service reflects the costs to provide them that service so that the broader customer and community base are not left to cover the gap,” the spokesperson said.
The ACT Government provided a water rebate from 1 July 2020 through to 31 December 2021 while the Water Review was being conducted.
But 12 months on, golf clubs in Canberra are still waiting for the government to advise on its intended pricing for non-potable water.
While the Magpies club has opted not to seek a new lease on the 47-year-old course, which has become an important community hub, it is in early discussions with another operator considering the leasing option.
In a statement, the Magpies vowed to work collaboratively for a smooth transition of the operating arrangements with all stakeholders.
The club has also called on the ACT Government to urgently provide a long-term equitable and affordable non-potable water pricing arrangement, which is crucial for the course’s future.
Across town at Phillip Oval, operators have no access to treated water and have been spending about $70,000 a year on potable water – or 40 per cent of their budget.
The maintenance of the facility is paramount for AFL Canberra and ACT Cricket fixtures.
The Phillip Oval Management Group has been seeking a reprieve from the rising cost of water for community-based sporting facilities.
Many, it would appear, are awaiting the ACT Government’s decision on water pricing.
It has the potential to impact on the viability of some sporting organisations that simply won’t be able to cover the cost.