is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. to get it by email. This week’s issue is written by Yan Zhuang, a reporter with the Australia bureau.
As Australia emerges from coronavirus lockdowns, a battle over access to public green spaces in its cities has started and is largely being fought on the country’s golf courses.
In Melbourne, a need for parks and green spaces was acutely felt during its harsh lockdown, when exercise was one of the permitted reasons to leave the house. With outdoor sports — including golf — banned, local councils across the state threw open the gates of courses to the public.
But when the lockdown ended and golf was allowed to resume, some residents in the suburb of Northcote wanted to keep their local golf course open to the public, arguing that access to the space brought health and mental health benefits to locals. Golfers were outraged. Bill Jennings, a semiregular at the course for over two decades and a leader of the campaign to save the course, framed it as a matter of fairness: “You can’t just walk in and go ‘We’ll have this,’” he said.
Now the council is examining whether to cut the size of the golf course to unlock more parkland. In Sydney, a similar proposal has spurred equal parts support and backlash. Campaigns to reappropriate golf courses are happening in Britain, where space is an even tighter commodity.