Golf course for sale after plans for 800 homes sat on minister’s desk for years
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- The nation’s biggest super fund, AustralianSuper, bought the Kingswood Golf Course site in 2014 for $100 million and has fought ever since to redevelop it.
- Its first attempt was stymied in 2018 when Kingston Council abandoned its rezoning after 8000 resident objections.
- The state government then took the decision out of council’s hands but AustralianSuper has been waiting on approval for rezoning of the site for several years.
A disused golf course in Melbourne’s sandbelt will be sold nine years after developers purchased the site and sought planning approval from the government to rezone it and build 823 homes.
The delay calls into question the Andrews government’s own record in approving housing after it slammed local councils for blocking development and indicated it would take planning powers away from local government in upcoming housing and planning reforms.
Angry Dingley Village residents in the Greenwood Close pocket park in front of the Kingswood Golf Course. Australian Super wants to sell the golf course, which has been closed and used as a park.Credit: Penny Stephens
The nation’s biggest super fund, AustralianSuper, bought the Kingswood Golf Course site in Dingley Village for $100 million in 2014 and has fought ever since to redevelop it.
Its first attempt was stymied in 2018 when Kingston Council abandoned its rezoning after 8000 residents objected.
The state government took the decision off the local council and handed it to then-planning minister Richard Wynne, who sought recommendations from a special advisory committee.
The advisory committee’s report was never released and 20 months and two planning ministers later, the report remains on current minister Sonya Kilkenny’s desk, with no explanation for the lack of a decision.
Kilkenny did not respond to a series of questions for this story, including why the report had not been released and why no decision had been made on the rezoning of the land.
“The advisory committee’s recommendations about the Kingswood Golf Course proposal have been submitted and are currently under consideration,” a spokesman for the government said.
Julijana Todorovic, spokeswoman for Labor for Housing – a non-factional ALP members’ group pressing for more affordable housing – said the former golf course was a substantial site “ripe for social housing and development”.
“The government is at a crossroads with this housing statement as to whether they commit to sensible planning reform like mandatory inclusionary zoning for sites like Kingswood Golf Course or whether they keep going with the status quo,” she said. “It needs to be a mixed development site. We certainly need medium-density private housing. We also need affordable housing for workers.”
A spokeswoman for AustralianSuper said the sale was the result of a review by the fund of its property portfolio.
“Our decision to divest has nothing to do with the rezoning application,” the spokeswoman said. “Regardless of any decision on this application, we would be divesting this asset at this time. It is simply too small and no longer aligns to our property investment strategy.”
The spokeswoman said the fund had not received a copy of the specialist advisory committee’s report on the rezoning.
“AustralianSuper still believes that the development of the site should proceed as proposed
as it will provide increased housing diversity and stock in this key growth corridor within the
middle ring of Melbourne as well as community and social infrastructure that will benefit the
local community for years to come,” the spokeswoman said.
The now abandoned Kingswood Golf Course. Credit: Simon Schluter
However, Max Shifman, chief executive of property group Intrapac and national president of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, said the planning delay meant AustralianSuper would “certainly be hurting commercially”.
“That is a site that could have already delivered several hundred homes into a market that needs it, but we are sitting and waiting for an outcome,” he said. “It is these sorts of decisions that are contributing and exacerbating the housing crisis.”
Shifman said the rezoning delay and community opposition to the development were both likely to be factors impacting AustralianSuper’s decision to sell.
“They have probably realised this is not an asset they want to be involved in particularly with the community challenge they face,” he said. “I certainly think there is a reputational thing.”
Residents group the Save Kingswood Group said AustralianSuper wanted $250 million for the site, which they said was not suitable for development because it was on a flood plain.
The AustralianSuper spokeswoman said the sale price was commercial-in-confidence and that the proposed development would not increase flooding risk in the area.
“It floods out our town regularly,” Save Kingswood group president Kevin Poulter said. “The consensus is residents want it to remain as a park, quite a few are open to a very useful thing like a high school, which we really need, or other less intensive use which won’t flood us out and may even be good for the community.”
City of Kingston has also continued to oppose Australian Super’s planned development.
“The site is not needed to provide housing supply, as Kingston already has a positive plan in place to
meet our housing supply needs right through to at least 2038, without needing to develop valuable
green open space provided by golf courses,” Kingston Mayor Hadi Saab said. “These sites provide valuable tree canopy and reduce heat islands in our suburbs, that are increasing with growing development and climate change.”
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