Shortland Waters says Aveo showing lack of empathy

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Shortland Waters Golf Club says the company building a retirement village in the middle of its course has shown a “total lack of empathy” by declining to help the club overcome its financial difficulties.

The club has gone into voluntary administration and is seeking another club to merge with after two years of building work at the course has discouraged golfers and left it with a cash-flow crisis.

Belmont Golf Club lodged an expression of interest in a merger – it would effectively be a takeover – but said in a letter to members last week that it had withdrawn after examining Shortland Waters’ “financial position and the arrangements regarding the seniors living project on their course”.

Aveo, the company behind the $220 million retirement village, said in a Herald report on Saturday that it would “not be a candidate” to take over managing the course.

The company is building new holes and a new clubhouse in a deal which rescued the club from financial difficulty two years ago.

“Aveo has previously provided $8.5 million in financial support to complete the Shortland Waters golf clubhouse and new course holes,” a spokesperson said in Saturday’s report.

But the volunteers who run the golf club said on Tuesday that the $8.5 million was not “financial support” but part of a $10.7 million land-sale agreement with Aveo.

Club treasurer Kerry Duggan said the works had taken longer than expected and Aveo had a moral obligation to support the club until it could start trading properly again.

He said a works program from April 2016 forecast that the new holes would be ready for play by May 2018.

“The ongoing delay in completing the golf club’s works program continues to impact the club’s ability to trade normally,” the club volunteers said in a letter to the Herald.

“The club detailed the impact the delays with the development was having in July 2017, but no formal response was received.

“It should be noted there are no delays to the village development works program to our knowledge.”

They said Aveo’s marketing of the retirement village featured the golf course “prominently”.

Aveo said last week that it “recognises that the decision by Shortland Waters Golf Course to enter voluntary administration reflects a wider decline of the golf course industry”.

Mr Duggan has raised the prospect of the course being sold off to a developer if the golf club goes bust.

The volunteers’ letter said Aveo had a caveat over the entire course which “effectively gives them first mortgage over the club’s land”, and this had prevented the club from securing a line of credit to keep paying its operating costs.

“The survival of a community asset is at stake and the golfing community and general public should be alert to the fact that Aveo is the only winner in the event of the demise of Shortland Waters,” the letter reads.

“The Aveo caveat effectively gives them first right to secure and landbank the property for future development.”

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