NOTE: This article was published in 2012 and $quoted may have changed since then, but not easy to check given the opaque nature of Crown Lands website.
The contrast between the Lane Cove golf course on Sydney’s North Shore and the giant NSW Golf Club in La Perouse could not be more stark. One pays about $300,000 in rent to the local council. The other pays $40,000 to the Lands Department…. And when it comes to private Sydney clubs, there are perhaps few more aristocratic than NSW Golf Club Company Limited, set on 59 hectares of undulating hills that hug magnificent views along Sydney’s shore. With a 10- to 14-year waiting list to join, anyone who wants to take a swing at La Perouse generally has to be invited by one of only about 1000 members. Considering it costs almost $10,000 a person to join, and a further $2381 in annual membership fees, the rent paid to taxpayers represents the income from less than four new members.
from: Public land, private profit, 30 August 2003, Sydney Morning Herald G. Ryle
Despite boasting a $32 million championship golf course and first-class entertainment and practice facilities, the Land and Environment Court has ruled the prime La Perouse land is worthless.
While it was valued at just over $6 million three years ago, the club’s lawyers last week convinced Acting Justice David Lloyd it was worth nothing in its bitter legal battle with the NSW Valuer General.
The decision will see the renowned club’s Randwick Council rates bill slashed by 97 per cent, dropping from $36,000 a year to less than $1000 — far less than the amount paid by furious neighbouring homeowners.
With sweeping views of Botany Bay, the exclusive club — ranked second-best in Australia and 34th in the world — has a 10-year waiting list for membership that counts Ricky Ponting and Greg Norman among its numbers.
In documents filed to the court, the club admitted the cost of building such a course from scratch would be about $32 million, not to mention its idyllic surroundings.
But general manager David Burton told the court the club was far from profitable.
Despite raking in almost $800,000 in corporate and new membership fees last year, he said the club turned a net profit of just $331,786 — and that even that “reverted to a loss when funds were allocated to a reserve for future course maintenance”.
Justice Lloyd agreed and, in making his decision, accepted that a clause in the lease which allowed the government to evict the club with three months notice rendered the land value worthless. “The price which (a) hypothetical purchaser would be prepared to pay would be nil,” he said.
The club’s acting general manager Warren Begg would not be drawn on whether it would recoup rates paid to the council since July 2009, but its barrister Peter McEwen SC admitted the decision could be used as a legal precedent to argue against future valuations and that it would have “ramifications throughout the state”.
He said the government would need to close the legal loophole if they wanted to prevent other clubs from following suit and mounting the same argument to reduce their rates. “The government will need to change the law or review their leases,” he said.
The decision has outraged neighbouring ratepayers, who said the club — and its high-profile members — had left them to foot the bill for the council’s services.
The council calculates its rates based on land value and a “nil value” means the club only has to pay $990 — the minimum amount possible by a commercial tennant.
In comparison, John London, who has lived near the course for more than half a century, pays $1156 annually in rates for his property with a land value of $486,000.
“They’re a pretty exclusive club and have plenty of well-heeled members so it doesn’t seem right that they’re paying less in rates than me,” the 77-year-old said.