Morisset Country Club to close

21st May 2019

Source: Newcastle Herald | By: James Gardiner | Posted: May 21, 2019

MORISSET Country Club members will lobby local and state politicians in the hope that public pressure convinces owners Drysdale Metals to abandon plans to close the "community hub".

Club directors were notified via email last Wednesday that the property was to be vacated by August 15, bringing an end to its 51-year history.

The closure has devastated 719 golfers, some of which are foundation members, about 2000 social members, 66 lawn bowlers, as well as 30 staff.

"We have to respect the landlord, but I hope there is enough pressure put on Lake Macquarie Council that they don't rezone the property," Morisset Country Club president Erica Ford said. "The land was bought as recreation land 30 years ago. We can just live in hope. "

Drysdale Metals managing director Glen Drysdale is yet to reveal plans for the 90 hectare golf course site.

In 2013, Lake Macquarie Council rejected a rezoning application for the land, which sunk plans for a housing development. Council staff said the proposal had ''strategic merit'' but were overruled by councillors.

More than 160 members attended a meeting on Sunday where details of the closure were outlined. Mr Drysdale was invited but declined.

"There is a lot of anger and disappointment in the community because it is going to impact on so many people," Ms Ford said. "I spoke with (Lake Macquarie MP) Greg Piper on Thursday and also heard from the mayor (Kay Fraser). There is nothing in council at the moment. I guess with us not here, it might be easier to get the land rezoned. If it is the end of the club in three months, I hope that people still fight for it to be open space."

As well as host sport, the South Lake Macquarie RSL Sub-branch meets at the club, which hosts Anzac Day and other services. It has also been used as an evacuation centre during floods.

The club has been operating on a month-to-month lease despite requests by directors for a long-term deal.

Ms Ford said although in a strong financial position, an administrator was appointed on Monday in anticipation of winding up the business.

"The licensed club has 35 poker machines and we need to ensure the staff are looked after and all entitlements met," Ms Foord said.

In a statement, Drysdale Metals said: "The decision had not been taken lightly and the club has been given three months instead of the required one month's notice of the intention to end the lease. While Drysdale Metals has issued the club with a notice period of three months, it did advise the club in December 2018 that it was undertaking a review of land-holdings and reminded the club of its month-to-month lease."

Long-term Morisset Country Club member John Quinlan was involved in lobbying council when the rezoning application in 2013 was rejected.

"The history of this piece of land is unique in that it was originally a grant from the government to the club for a peppercorn rental and a 99-year lease," he said. "All of that changed in the 80s when that lease was somehow converted to freehold and the land was sold. It became in private ownership. The fact that it is going to impact on so many people is irrelevant. The owner has a right to try to do what he wants to do. The community has a right to question and challenge that through the processes available."

Mr Quinlan said the club's closure would impact on the community's social fabric.

"There are 20 plus ladies over the age of 80, who play nine holes twice a week," he said. "There golf is gone and the whole friendship and social fabric that revolves around them and their sport is gone.

"Erica and her board have done a magnificent job turning the club around in the past year or so. It is a viable business.

"The owner has wanted to do this for some time and, in my view, he was hoping we would go into liquidation long before this to save him the trouble of throwing us out."

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