Federal Golf Club is facing significant financial challenges and will not survive another dry spell
Federal is in a critical financial position after more than a decade of difficult climatic conditions and heavily increasing water costs. We now spend up to $2 million each year maintaining the public-access green space that includes the golf course and surrounding environment, but we do not have the financial reserves or resources to survive another hot and dry summer.
Being a public-access golf course, Federal is a community and environmental asset which we believe should be maintained and protected. The success of our development proposal, Federal’s continued tenure at the property and the protection of the open space are all directly linked.
Operational performance is sound
Federal Golf Club is operationally sound. It’s membership numbers position it in the top 6% of golf courses nationally, and it proudly represents a premier bushland golf experience in the ACT. However, the cost of tap water needed to keep the course operational has increased exponentially over the past decade. Of the 78 Australian golf clubs independently benchmarked by GBAS in 2020, Federal’s water expenses were the highest by a significant margin and were 18 times higher than the median.
Despite our good operational performance, disproportionately high water costs has meant that we have not been able to set aside further capital to invest in improving our water security.
Federal has employed a range of efforts to reduce its reliance on tap water over the last 15 years, including changing turf types to more drought tolerant species and adding water storage basins. Despite this, the financial burden that our ongoing need for tap water has imposed means that we do not have the financial resources to survive another hot and dry summer.
Our proposal will strengthen the Club's financial position and increase its immunity to adverse weather patterns by combining a capital investment program to improve our water security and complemented by a broadening of our income streams. Together these actions provide comprehensive protection against long-term climate challenges.
Investing in infrastructure
Federal needs capital investment to achieve two primary objectives in relation to water security: increased water storage capacity to a minimum of 40 megalitres and a more efficient distribution system. The combined level of capital required for a solution to these issues is significant and will grow if our aspirational water storage targets of 60 megalitres and up to 80 megalitres can be achieved.
Additionally, the Club's ageing clubhouse, used not only for members but also a large number of private, corporate and community functions, will require significant investment over the short term to remain relevant to these users.
With both urgent investment required in water infrastructure and short to medium term investment requirements of the clubhouse, the Club needs a solution of sufficient scale to solve the magnitude of its capital shortage. In 2018 the Club commissioned an independent review of its current and potential financial performance to determine our ability to self-fund these water and capital works. This review firmly assessed that the Club is not capable of borrowing or generating the surplus funds required to complete the necessary works.
Alternative options considered
The Club has comprehensively investigated the options to obtain the upfront capital needed to improve its water security and diversify its income. A report commissioned in 2013 known as the Tony Adams report considered the Club's options and concluded that four uses should be investigated further. These were child care, gymnasium, hotel/golf tourism and seniors living.
A childcare facility or gymnasium cannot provide the commercial returns necessary to address the scale of the financial issues Federal faces. A hotel was seen as operationally intensive and subject to seasonal fluctuations. Commercial uses including hotels have subsequently been confirmed by the ACT Government as having unacceptable impacts and are now proposed to be removed from the Club’s permitted uses.
Seniors housing is the only viable option that can deliver both the upfront and ongoing income required. It provides age-appropriate housing that allows seniors to stay close to their local community and requires an aligned operator with an ongoing interest in the presentation and maintenance of the retirement community long-term.