Mount Compass Golf Course at risk of large scale development

Concerned: Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and staff member Jaime Cook meet with Mount Compass residents Steven Hayes and Denise and Bill Coomans, who are concerned about plans to redevelop the Mount Compass Golf Course. Photo: Supplied.
Concerned: Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and staff member Jaime Cook meet with Mount Compass residents Steven Hayes and Denise and Bill Coomans, who are concerned about plans to redevelop the Mount Compass Golf Course. Photo: Supplied.

The picturesque Mount Compass Golf Course is at risk of closing down for the development of hundreds of housing allotments.

The revelation comes following controversy surrounding the zoning of the course, which resulted in an Environment, Resources and Development Committee hearing held on May 24.

Under South Australia's new planning code, the golf course was rezoned from "residential" to "rural, recreation and neighbourhood" following a recommendation made by the Alexandrina Council in February 2021.

Mount Compass Golf Course owner Stephen Connor said that as part of planning reforms, he had hoped the land would be rezoned as "residential-suburban neighbourhood".

Mr Connor told the Committee he "found out to my horror" the land had been rezoned as rural, recreation and neighbourhood.

He said this change would have massive implications for his business and suggested the land was worth "about 10 per cent of the value" it had been previously.

"The destruction of value is horrendous and, if it's not sorted out, basically our business is going to get wiped out," Mr Connor said.

Planning Minister Vickie Chapman has since requested the independent State Planning Commission initiate an amendment to rezone the land to "Golf Course Estate", a move Mr Connor said he would support.

Mr Connor said he had only been running the Mount Compass Golf Course in the short term, until he had approval to redevelop the site.

"There is no money in golf courses. Its future was always at risk," he said.

"I bought it as a residential development site, not as a golf course. I have just maintained the golf course business in the interim while we have been doing some subdivision around it."

Alexandrina Council's strategic development manager Sally Roberts said the golf course was an important feature of Mount Compass with an established community.

She said the council's support for the course to be zoned rural and recreation upheld previous council intent for the site.

"From council's perspective, what is being asked by Mr Connor is primarily a policy change that has far-reaching consequences for this community and therefore should not be occurring through this particular process but, rather, through a code amendment process," Ms Roberts said.

"Council has been advised that an amendment has been initiated by the minister [Vickie Chapman] on behalf of Mr Connor and it is considered that through this process both council and the community can be fully informed and engaged in any future development options for this particular area."

A community dismayed 

Golf course estate resident and Alexandrina councillor Bill Coomans said the local community felt "totally abandoned by the political system that is supposed to protect them in times of need".

"The possibility of losing a renowned 18-hole golf course to a huge housing estate is a disgrace, an absolute tragedy to what they hold dear," Mr Coomans said.

"Residents chose to live here and committed financially because of the rural character of this area and the clean natural environment.

"The zoning has always primarily accommodated recreational land use activities (golf course) and then complimented by an adjacent low-density residential area."

Mr Coomans said local residents first became aware of the intention to rezone the golf course area in late March, when an application was lodged with the state government for the development of 681 allotments on the site.

A specific Facebook page dedicated to issues at the estate currently has more than 290 members and has been used to share information on the issue.

"The position of the residents who have voiced their disdain at the development proposal is that they wish for the zoning of the golf course to stay as 'recreational activities (golf course)', anything else is an absolute insult to all," Mr Coomans said.

"We don't want any adverse impacts to this delicate environmental area including the adjacent wetlands. The recreational zoning has been in place for decades and no government should be allowed to tamper with it to the detriment of the natural environment and underground water supply..."

Federal MP weighs in

Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie met with a number of residents this week and told The Times she would "go into bat" for them.

"Since this came to light, I've been inundated by concerned residents," Ms Sharkie said.

"I share Mount Compass' concern about such a development going ahead, because if you look at current ABS data, there are 555 households in the Mount Compass regional area, including outside of the township.

"This proposal is for 681 allotments, so this is not just an issue for people who have paid a significant price to live in what they thought was a golf cause area... but the broader Mount Compass community is also really concerned about this proposal.

"I see this as a real David and Goliath battle. A decision won't be made by council, it will be made at a state government level and even though I'm federal, this community needs someone to go into bat for them and I will do everything I can to get a meeting with Vickie Chapman to share the concerns of the community."

Ms Sharkie said carving up the golf course for housing would be "a travesty".

Basham not supportive of 681 allotment development 

Member for Finniss David Basham said he has never supported the proposal to "develop 681 allotments over the whole golf course".

"The Mount Compass Golf Course is an important community asset. As a long-term resident of the Mount Compass area, I value the golf course. It is my strong preference the golf course remains as a community asset for years to come," Mr Basham said.

"It is my understanding under the old Development Act the Mount Compass Golf Course was unusually zoned residential with an overlay put in place to prevent subdivision and ensure a golf course is retained.

"As a result of the Alexandrina Council's application during consultation in late 2020, I understand the planning department recommended the 'Recreational and Rural' zone, which took effect on 19 March 2021.

"The land's owner, Mr Connor, approached me raising concerns this decision would negatively affect his business and employees.

"As I would do for anyone, I made a representation to the Hon Vickie Chapman MP, Minister for Planning, requesting the matter raised by Mr Connor be investigated.

"The Minister for Planning later informed me that she had looked into Mr Connor's situation and requested the State Planning Commission initiate a process for the Mount Compass Golf Course land to be rezoned to 'Golf Course Estate Zone' which would allow for the ongoing operation of the golf course supported by some residential development."

Mr Basham said Minister Chapman had made it very clear to him that there would be full public consultation, allowing residents and the Alexandrina Council to have their say on the proposed changes before any decision was made.

Mr Connor has been contacted for additional comment.