Cloud over viability of SS&A golf course

THE SS&A Club cannot guarantee the future viability of Wodonga golf course after Wodonga Council rejected its plea for financial help.

The club will look for other solutions to save the ailing Wodonga facility, which carries about a $3 million debt.

SS&A chief executive Tim Levesque yesterday said the council’s decision to refuse its request for a lifeline — in the form of a $600,000 grant — was disappointing but not unexpected.

“It just means that we now have to make other decisions that might not be what the council wants,” he said.

The SS&A had sought $300,000 over three years for maintenance of the course, and another $300,000 for drainage works on land it owns in Parkers Road to allow for its sale and redevelopment.

The council on Monday voted unanimously against both requests, saying it would set a “dangerous precedent” of funding commercial enterprises.

Both mayor Rodney Wangman and Mr Levesque said yesterday the club and council had talked for years on a range of issues, including how the council could support the club.

Cr Wangman said he and the council had been talking to potential investors for the Parkers Road land on the club’s behalf.

“We’re happy to do that... but when it comes to putting ratepayers’ money back into what is essentially a business organisation, it’s not for us to do,” he said.

He believed the council might have contributed to small-scale maintenance works in the past, “where there’s been a benefit to gain for our community”.

Mr Levesque said the council had made verbal offers of support, though never specifically of a financial nature.

The parent club has a debt of just over $7 million, $3 million of it related to the Wodonga operation, though the course’s operating budget now is running at a small profit after showing a loss last year

Mr Levesque was confident the SS&A Club’s position as a whole would improve, but could not say the same for the course, though he did not believe it was in any immediate danger.

“The golf course has to improve its financial stability to ensure its future,” he said.

“Like any business if it’s not financially secure, it won’t survive.”

The council has also agreed to fund $300,000 for the Murray United soccer club, including $120,000 for improvements to its home ground at La Trobe University.

Asked why the council funded this venture and not the golf course, Cr Wangman said it was due to the long-term leasing arrangement the council had with La Trobe that still had 18 years to run.

“We lease that land from them for the benefit of the community, whereas at the golf club, we don’t.”