Morisset Country Club site in the spotlight
30th May 2019
I delivered a Private Member's Statement in Parliament this afternoon about the closure of Morisset Country Club. You can read it in full below.
As we know, the site is privately owned but the owner has not indicated any intentions for the site or lodged any rezoning application with the council.
Until that happens, I've been focussing on the things that need some immediate attention. For starters, the club was an evacuation point in times of disaster and its closure has also left the area without a large meeting and entertainment venue. Further, it houses a war memorial and, on a lesser scale, a Return and Earn recycling machine.
For that reason I'm hosting a meeting tomorrow of community leaders to try and get some of those issues resolved. Mayor Kay Fraser will be attending with several councillors and senior council staff, as well as local police chief Danny Sullivan and representatives from the RSL Sub-branch, the PCYC, the business chamber and community.
Here's the full transcript of the statement made in the NSW Parliament this evening:
PRIVATE MEMBER’S STATEMENT
Member Lake Macquarie Greg Piper
Morisset Country Club
To the disappointment of many in my community, the curtain has come down somewhat unexpectedly on Morisset Country Club which has operated at Morisset for more than 51 years.
It was not finances or bad management which ultimately saw the doors closed last week. In fact its current trading position was apparently quite strong. Rather, the private owner of the site has taken vacant possession of its asset with plans yet to be revealed.
The golf course and facilities on 90 hectares of land were acquired by Drysdale Metals in 1989 and then leased back to the club under a deal done with the club’s then-board. The Drysdales have I understand provided the club with rent concessions many times but informed the club’s board last October that it would not offer another long-term lease.
Two weeks ago, the club’s board was told it would need to vacate the premises and close the golf course and bowling green.
It came as a great disappointment to many. As I said earlier, the club had worked its way back to a good financial position in recent years, due mainly to the excellent work of its board headed by President Erica Ford.
While the club and associated facilities were given until August 15 to fully vacate the site, the doors have been closed since May 19.
The closure has devastated 719 golfing members including some who were foundation members. The club also had more than 2000 social members, 66 lawn bowlers and 30 staff who are now without work.
As I mentioned, Drysdale Metals have not publicly indicated their intentions for the site and this has caused a broader distress in the local community and fuelled fears that a rezoning might see the site turned over to housing.
As it stands, there is currently no application to rezone the site with Lake Macquarie City Council.
While the site’s immediate future is not clear, the Drysdales sought to rezone the land in 2013 but it was rejected by the councillors at the time.
It would be fair to say that while the site could house valuable community facilities in the health and education sectors, many in the community want to see it retained for recreational use, and have the parkland nature provided by the golf course preserved.
I’m personally of the mind that we’ll cross that bridge when the owners make their intentions known. What concerns me in the short term is a number of matters which extend beyond the fact that 30 people have just lost their jobs, and my local area has lost what was a genuine focal point of the local community. The club was a meeting place for people, as well as a place for passive recreation.
The club has been used for, and still is, an evacuation centre under the Lake Macquarie Disaster Management Plan. Indeed it played such a role not so long ago when Dora Creek flooded during what is known as the Pasher Bulker storm in 2007. The club has in the past done an amazing job of assisting local people in such times of desperate need.
Not unimportantly, the club is also the largest venue in the area for private functions and public meetings.
Near the front doors of the club is a war memorial which becomes the focal point for large gatherings on Remembrance Day and Anzac Day. This club has had a long relationship with the South Lake Macquarie RSL Sub-branch. This RSL Sub-branch is developing a strategy to deal with this loss however many in the community will feel this loss of location heavily.
On a lesser scale, the site also houses a Return and Earn reverse vending machine so another location may well need to be found for that as well.
And then there’s the many smaller clubs and groups which have lost their regular meeting place including for bowls and snooker.
I’m hosting a meeting tomorrow with a number of other community leaders in the hope of finding a way forward on these immediate problems. They include the Lake Macquarie mayor and councillors, council staff, senior police and emergency services personnel, the RSL Sub-branch, the PCYC, the local business chamber and community leaders.
As I mentioned earlier, there is no argument that Drysdale Metals have the right to sell their property or pursue other uses, but there are impacts which go beyond the obvious loss of jobs and a valuable community recreational facility.
I hope tomorrow’s meeting will allow us to move forward with solutions to some of those impacts, but I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Morisset Country Club for everything it has provided to and for the local community over the past 50 years.