The future of Magpies Belconnen Golf Club continues to hang in the balance with the cost of water central to its future. Currently, the club boasts around 600 golf members and uses treated effluent – recycled water – to irrigate the course, the cost of which is temporarily offset by an ACT Government rebate for 12 months.
Magpies general manager Paul Netting says with the water rebate due to end in late 2021, the golf course won’t be operational past 31 March, 2022, without an affordable and equitable supply of treated effluent.
The ACT Government-owned Icon Water currently charges the club $2.40 per kilolitre for potable water, with the prospect of an increase to more than $3.24 a kilolitre in the future. The recycled water the club utilises equates to only 1/400th of the treated effluent that Icon Water releases back into the Murrumbidgee River, which NSW then gains the use of, and sells for less than one cent per kilolitre.
What is giving the club hope is a review of water costs currently being undertaken by the ACT Government, which has commissioned the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to review the pricing of treated effluent.
The ICRC advises the government on costs of utilities in the ACT with the aim being to protect the ongoing interests of consumers. The government review is also examining the costs of supply of non-potable water that other golf clubs utilise from the ACT lakes and river system – this component is not being reviewed by the ICRC.
The review process will finish at the end of April, with a report scheduled to be released in July.
With the report and subsequent assessment of the recommendations by the government a work in progress until later in the year, Magpies has extended its lease with owners Woodhaven Investments for another nine months to 31 March, 2021.
Mr Netting said he is appreciative that Woodhaven Investments was able to work with the club to negotiate a short-term lease to allow time to receive the water review findings.
There are also other factors affecting the golf club’s future, such as COVID-19 restrictions and gaming changes, but the cost of water will be the main factor impacting it.
Magpies Belconnen Golf Club isn’t the only sporting facility management board concerned about the rising cost of water.
While Magpies has the ability to use treated water, it’s a different scenario for the operators of Phillip Oval.
With no infrastructure to transport treated water to the facility, Phillip Oval Management Group is spending 40 per cent of its total budget, which represents around $70,000 a year, on potable water to keep the playing surface up to standard for AFL Canberra and cricket.
Phillip Oval Management Group had been hoping community sports facilities would be given a reprieve in some form from the rising cost of water.
It’s an issue faced by a number of Canberra sports organisations on the back of a particularly dry summer in 2019-2020. The recent heavy rain in the region has only provided short-term relief.
The last thing the Canberra community needs is less sports facilities in a city that prides itself on being the most active in Australia.