15 May 2024

Federal Golf Club president resigns over new MOU signed with developer

| Ian Bushnell
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An artist’s impression of the proposed Federal Golf Course development. Several new DAs have been submitted. Image: GDH.

The president of the Federal Golf Club has resigned just five months into the role, and at the same time members backed a new secret memorandum of understanding with the developer of its proposed retirement village.

Members learned of David Bain-Smith’s unexplained departure in an email announcing the 8 May signing of the MOU between the club and MBark.

Mr Bain-Smith, managing director of recruitment firm Calleo, told Region that he did not support the direction the board was taking the club.

“The timing of my resignation was not coincidental,” he said.

“Due to my belief that decisions made by the board closely proceeding execution of new agreements were not in the best interest of our club or the members, I could not be party to the agreement.

“With this belief, I tendered my resignation on the day of, and prior to, the execution of agreements.”

Club member Dr Ross McLeod, who opposes the proposed development along with the Friends of Federal Fairways, said in an email to members that Mr Bain-Smith’s resignation was buried beneath news of the MOU signing.

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Dr McLeod, an ANU economics professor, called for the club to explain why Mr Bain-Smith’s tenure had been so short.

“Members can be forgiven for thinking this suggests something is seriously amiss in the governance of our club,” he said.

“Failure of the board to provide any information about the circumstances leading to, or the reasons for, David’s resignation invites speculation on these matters by members – and indeed, by the Canberra community that is being asked to gift us more than six hectares of prime urban land previously set aside as green space for its enjoyment.”

man in pink shirt and jacket

David Bain-Smith resigned without explanation. Photo: Calleo.

Dr McLeod has been a strong critic of the MOU process, which members were asked to support without being able to examine the details of the arrangement.

He has also argued that the club has not protected from inflation the $18.75 million that MBark agreed to pay in 2016 to buy the land.

Nonetheless, members supported the new MOU, with many proxy votes, at the club’s general meeting on 1 May.

Mr Bain-Smith proposed the motion urging members to approve the signing, but a week later, he was gone.

Dr McLeod said the club had not been open and transparent with members and had fears for the governance of a club that would come into a multi-million windfall if the retirement village development proceeds.

“Any organisation that suddenly becomes rich is vulnerable to the risks of poor corporate governance,” he said.

Dr McLeod said the public should also be alarmed by the proposed lease variation, which excises the six hectares needed for the development.

The club machinations come as it and Mbark lodge a flurry of new development applications, including the proposed lease change, to add to previous DAs.

Others now include one for a new water storage dam adjacent to the existing 12th green that will be used to irrigate the course and a new access road from Kitchener Street across Block 76, Section 10 Garran, to the planned retirement village on Block 1, Section 56 in Red Hill.

There is also a new DA for the construction of the retirement village itself.

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The club has long argued that the $105 million development was needed to secure its future, but Mr McLeod said that without reforming its current loss-making business model, the club would eventually run down its reserves.

The retirement village proposal has also been opposed on environmental grounds.

Comment was sought from the club.

The four new DAs are available for comment until 4 June.

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“The Canberra community is being asked to gift the Federal Golf Club more than six hectares of prime urban land previously set aside as green space for its enjoyment.” That six hectares is what is called “The Commons”, available for all to use. And yet here is a mob of entitled squatters thinking they can take it for their own selfish, profit-making private business purposes. It has a very nasty smell of wanting to destroy the very things that make Canberra so different from overbuilt, polluted, uglified, growth-at-any-cost cities.

fridgemagnet2:13 pm 17 May 24

Alas, we can look forward to more and more opportunistic infill from developers, groups and too our government as they grasp and claw their way to grow the ACT’s population to an eye watering 780,000 by 2060 (a 70% increase on current numbers). Curtin horse paddocks anyone? The “Bush Capital” will become a historical reference before long.

It’s been happening for a while now. Note the demolition of the Brumbies club and the bowling club that was part of it, all gone to luxury apartments and yet the Brumbies was in financial difficulties soon afterwards. Who gets the money? Not the Canberra community who lost the amenities and the land without any compensation.

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