A hive of activity at Remuera
By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the south
How does your golf course blend in with the local environment?
The importance of a golf course as a “green’’ space is one discussion point that has been underrated in the argument about golf courses in Auckland. But this also applies to your golf course whether it’s in a semi rural area or a suburban setting.
Golf courses today are dramatically more environmentally friendly than they were 10 or 20 years ago. The education of golf course superintendents really has made them conscious of the bio-diversity of the land which they work on.
Last March, during the NZ PGA Championship, I learnt what the Remuera Golf Club was doing with beehives on the golf course.
I was not aware of an urban golf course ever doing this before. Actually I don’t recall playing any rural golf course that has ever had beehives on them.
In talking with the Remuera greens keeping superintendent, Spencer Cooper, he told me that he and club management were mindful that their course lay in the heart of suburbia, right next to an enormously popular reserve with significant wetlands and magnificent birdlife (the Waiatarua Reserve). They are acutely aware that any poor management techniques on their part could have a detrimental impact – not only on the reserve and its birdlife, but also the club’s neighbours.
Spencer went on to say that “bees were a vital part of the ecosystem as they are particularly susceptible to pollutants and pesticides.
“If Remuera was to be a truly sustainable golf course, bees are an excellent indicator for us of the environmental health of the golf course and should we successfully maintain healthy populations then we know we are on the right track”.
He added that golf courses world-wide have “copped a bad reputation for destroying habitat, using too much water and polluting waterways” – in short, for poor sustainability practices.
“We feel it’s important to counter that perception and show that golf courses – if managed well – can in fact offer a major environmental benefit to the local community”.
When Spencer met a local beekeeper in the area, who was looking for a good spot for some of his hives, a relationship was established. In return he would educate the staff at the golf course and share some honey with the club.
Spencer thought it would be a good way to start. So with four hives to begin with, they were able to assess the risks and benefits to the golf course. According to Spencer, the bees seem to thrive on the manuka trees on and around the golf course, as well as the neighbours’ beautiful flower and vegetable gardens.
Currently, most of the honey is retained by the beekeeper but the plan is to have some of the honey served in the clubhouse restaurant this summer and “we would like to sell some to the members and local golfers”.
Spencer believes this is the perfect feel good story for the club and it helps to communicate what the club is trying to achieve environmentally.
For the Remuera Golf Club this is only part of the story. The day before me talking to Spencer, they had a site visit and audit by a Golf Environment Organization (GEO – www.golfenvironment.org) representative. From this visit they are hoping to get some positive feedback from GEO with possible formal accreditation/certification from them.
If this does transpire, they will be “the first golf course in New Zealand with this environmental certification which will be really exciting for us, especially considering we are the closest golf course to Auckland CBD”.
So I challenge all golfers to ask their golf clubs, both staff and board members, what they are doing to be more environmentally friendly in their communities.