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Sports clubs face new council charge

Flagstaff Team

Local sports clubs looking to renew their peppercorn clubroom leases on council land may face annual fees of $1300.

The Devonport Squash Club and the Takapuna Boating Club dodged a bullet late last year, having lodged their renewal applications before the Auckland Council fees policy took effect, but the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board signalled at its December meeting that it would hold a workshop on how best to apply the fees in 2024. 

The charge might be phased in, and the board has discretion on who is charged. 

But clubs with a commercial element to their operations, such as those running a money-making bar or renting out rooms to other groups, will come under more scrutiny on their financial position. 

“We’re providing a facility that offers them the opportunity to make money,”  said local-board chair Toni van Tonder. 

Though profits were largely ploughed back into facilities and operations, the board, which was facing its own budget cuts, had to look at finding its own revenue sources. 

It was not intended to charge clubs that were not in a position to make money. Encouraging community sports participation was important. 

All clubs pay just $1 for their clubroom ground leases currently. The new council fees regime is to better cover its own administration costs. Council is also encouraging boards to add maintenance fees into some leases.

During discussion of the squash club lease renewal, the board heard the club made $68,000 a year in returns from use of the gym. 

Membership revenue was less than $20,000. 

Van Tonder acknowledged the work the club had done on its facilities and said there was no intention to penalise it. But she recommended that the fee for leasing be reviewed after two years, rather than the five years that has been standard. 

This would better reflect the changing approach that would be applied to applications lodged by other clubs, with the aim of bringing them into line over time. The squash-club lease itself was approved for a 10-year term, with a 10-year right of renewal. 

Council staff also made clear that clubs would not be charged for using sports fields, after member George Wood raised this fear. 

He voted against the lease renewal under the new review terms, which was passed 5-1. 

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