Former NZX and Mediaworks boss Mark Weldon joins water stoush over Sir Russell Coutts’ private golf course

Former NZX and MediaWorks CEO Mark Weldon is one of several neighbours clashing heads with Sir Russell Coutts over water rights as the sailing champion seeks to extend his private golf course near Arrowtown.

In public submissions to the Otago Regional Council, Weldon and his wife Sarah Eliott are opposed to a consent application of BSTGT Ltd, of which Coutts is a director and shareholder, to take water from two creeks on the Crown Terrace.

The application is also jointly made by the family trust of tourism industry businessman Anthony McQuikin, who is Coutts’ Barley Station neighbour.

“In short, the applicants are looking to use historical mining rights to support a golf course and sculpture garden, to the detriment of other residents, which will increase fire catastrophe risk, decrease wildlife and birdlife, and threaten other viable land uses on the Crown Terrace,” Weldon and Eliott said.

An initial consent application was filed in April 2019, with amendments filed last November after Coutts, a five-time America’s Cup winner, applied to extend his 12-hole course to 15 and add a pond before later asking to make it a full 18-hole course.

Weldon, a former Olympic swimmer, and Eliott argued the application was “lacking good faith” and duplicit with its broad and misleading language, while golf courses are “environmental disasters”.

“The golf course is positioned at the top of the Crown Terrace – above nearly all the houses, and above the Arrow and other rivers into which the water ultimately goes. To allow this much water to go to a golf course – which the Applicants have every right to build – requires an understanding of the impact of that golf course on the water quantity and quality before a water consent for that use can be granted,” their submissions read.

They added the water requirements of a golf course are significant, especially in summer.

“Averages do not tell the story. What matters is – when it is dry – where does the water go. This is when golf courses use more water – there is a lot of data on the amount of water required by a golf course being up to 4x what is needed when it is wet/winter.”

The couple said Coutts, an Olympic gold medallist, and his partners’ application “completely ignores” neighbours downstream and prioritises the golf course over the natural shared resource.

“Given the obvious substantial expenditure on water-infrastructure for the golf course, this conclusion must be denied and cannot be a basis for decision making without more information being provided,” Weldon’s opposition reads.

“At our place on the Crown Terrace we spent $36,000 drilling for water. We did not find any. However, the costs, at this level, are not prohibitive. What is the cost of developing a single golf green?”

Among other recommendations, they asked for a new water permit for 25,000L per day for each applicant with property on a stream and said if the application was granted, in any form, it be limited to six years.

A hearing on the consent is due to be held in Queenstown next month.

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