Legal challenge from neighbours could put golf tournament in the rough

In a shock move, a legal challenge is being mounted to Arrowtown’s Millbrook Resort hosting the prestigious New Zealand Open golf tournament, beyond this year.

Neighbours of the golf course resort — which has hosted or co-hosted the annual Open since 2017 — have lodged a High Court judicial review relating to its resource consent.

The Open’s currently operating under a 10-year consent granted in November, 2021, on a non-notified basis.

Council planning and development GM David Wallace confirms council received notice of the judicial review on December 21.

‘‘As this is going through a legal process, we’re unable to comment further,’’ he says.

For the same reason, Millbrook director of property and development Ben O’Malley’s also refusing to comment.

It’s understood the legal challenge has been made by X-Ray Trust Ltd, which owns two adjacent Speargrass Flat Rd properties neighbouring Millbrook’s latest Coronet course extension.

Its directors, Brian Cartmell and Nathan Branch, whose backgrounds are in information technology and writing/photography, respectively, hail from the United States.

In 2021, their trust took legal action over Millbrook’s plan to allow food sales from a ‘halfway house’ on the new course.

‘Tournament brings an awful lot to region’

Commenting on the judicial review, NZ Open tournament director Michael Glading says the neighbours are objecting to the consent process.

‘‘Where that ends up, I’m frightened to know.

‘‘My understanding is they can’t stop this year’s tournament [starting February 29] but they may be trying to set out to stop us in the future, which would just be a nightmare for the region and a nightmare for Millbrook and a nightmare for everything else, but that’s a worst-case scenario.’’

Nightmare scenario … New Zealand Open tournament director Michael Glading at Millbrook Resort yesterday, during the final day of last year’s NZ Open

Glading says: ‘‘If you’re concerned about the consent process, then that tells me you’re concerned about the fact the consent was granted, and that just sort of signals you don’t want the event to take place — and that might be putting two and two together to make 16.

‘‘It could just be they have a beef with council and they feel council’s done this the wrong way, but history might show it’s more than that.

‘‘In our view, the tournament brings an awful lot to the region, and it’s disappointing if there are people that don’t buy into that.’’

Glading says Queenstown’s council’s been supportive of the event as well as everyone else — ‘‘we’ve had terrific support’’.

‘‘If you just take it in its narrowest form, the fact it’s broadcast around the world, it exposes a very positive part of the region.

‘‘Whether you like golf or don’t like golf is almost by the by, because we make sure when we do our broadcasts we include lots of beautiful pictures of the region, not just of the golf course.’’

Glading says there are other courses that could accommodate the Open, including new ones north of Auckland, but he says NZ Golf remains wedded to Queenstown.

‘‘We’ve always believed Queenstown is still the jewel in our crown, it totally is.

‘‘I know from my role of attracting players, the number one thing that attracts them is Queenstown — it’s an easy sell.

‘NZ people get a bit blase about Queenstown, but you talk to international people and they’re never blase about it.

‘‘You have everything in Queenstown, you have the world-class golf courses, you have the lakes, the mountains, the package Queenstown presents is super-attractive for everybody, and that’s what brings people here.’’

Attempt to mitigate effects on neighbours

Mountain Scene this week emailed X-Ray Trust Ltd director Brian Cartmell, asking for comment, but didn’t receive a response by deadline.

Information supporting Millbrook’s resource consent application, Brown & Company Planning Group notes, following consultation undertaken for previous events, ‘‘the current proposal may potentially give rise to effects on neighbours that are located adjacent to the golf course’’.

‘‘In order to provide physical separation where possible, a spectator exclusion area is proposed within the southernmost part of the Coronet course around hole 8, which is to act as an additional barrier between the event and properties nearby to this part of the resort.’’

Concerning X-Ray Trust’s land, the planner says: ‘‘Through agreements with Millbrook Resort and the owners of these sites, a spectator exclusion zone has been confirmed.

‘‘On this basis and due to the existing topography of these sites (lower than the adjoining course), any potential effects resulting from the tournament are less than minor.’’

The planner also states TV towers and scaffolding will be ‘‘sensitively’’ located to ensure they’re not highly visible from neighbouring sites, and ‘‘operators of filming’’ will be directed not to focus on any residential dwellings adjoining the golf course.

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