After decades, a Karori tennis club looks set to be disestablished with the local council to take over the running of a single court it has used since 1964. 

“It’s all a bit sad really, we feel there’s an ulterior motive,” Wyncourt club president Max Tie said.  

“We pay rent every year and have done for 64 years and we’ve never missed a rental payment. Now we’re getting shoved out of there and for what we don’t know.” 

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The lease at Appleton Park was most recently agreed to in 2002, it expired in September last year. Club members pay $40 a year for a key, with the funding used by the club to maintain the courts. 

They own the fence, the courts, and technically the asphalt, which the council said it was welcome to take away with it. 

“It’d only be out of spite that we’d take down the fence and the net… that would be a negative thing,” Tie said.  

The Wellington City Council adopted a new leases policy in 2012 and says the club now doesn’t meet the criteria, or the criteria in the Reserves Act. 

“This requirement for leasing reserve land is commonly met by clubs providing diverse programmes such as lessons and coaching, club competitions, tennis clinics and camps, events, and other club ancillary activities, affiliation to regional and national bodies is also a consideration.  

“Wyncourt Tennis Club’s application for exclusive court use at Appleton Park falls short of the criteria outlined in the Reserves Act 1977 and council leasing policy for community and recreation groups,” a spokesperson said.  

The council has proposed to take over the running of the court. 

“Officers propose that the court becomes a community court. This ensures the court is open to the community year round  and will offer the opportunity to play a game of tennis at no cost to casual users, this would still allow the existing Wyncourt Tennis Club members to have casual access to play tennis.

“A community court will also allow other casual uses for example a game of futsal, netball or half court/pickup basketball, learning to ride a bike or skateboard. This will enable the space to be much better utilised by the community with improved recreation outcomes.”

Tie said the court had no clubrooms so the idea it should be hosting competitions, camps and other social events was laughable. He said the club appealed to a large group of people who did not want higher fees associated with clubs that did offer those types of events.

The council denied the court was being acquired for anything other than the ability to make it more widely available. 

“The area the court is located is part of Appleton Park and is designated as recreation reserve land. This protection safeguarded the land for recreational activities in accordance with the legislative provisions outlined in the Reserves Act 1977.”

The club is preparing to fight for its cause before the council on Thursday morning. 

NZ Amateur Sport Association chair Gordon Noble-Campbell said it spoke to a wider issue in Wellington over sports clubs’ distrust of local councils.

“There is a feeling among sports clubs that council isn’t doing a good job.”

He referred to the affordable sport campaign which sought a review of costs imposed on sports clubs by local councils in Wellington for grounds fees and upkeep.

Wellington city councillors had promised a review of the fees, walked back on it, then re-committed earlier this year. Other councils in the region have committed to joining the review, except for Hutt City Council which will undertake its own internal review. 

Meanwhile, sports clubs including Capital Football and College Sport Wellington have withheld fees in protest.  

“Wellington has an interesting challenge on its hand when it comes to community use,” Noble-Campbell said. 

Tie said there had been discussions in the past about using the park for development linked to Let’s Get Wellington Moving, and he said he would not be surprised if the council wanted the court for another reason.  

He said the council had been dishonest by downplaying how frequently the court was used and underestimating the negative effect it would have on community use.  

“They’ve got no data to back up that their way would get more people using the court.

“We’d prefer to keep on running as we’ve always done.  

“We’re a family-friendly club… so I don’t know where else they’d go.” 

The club has about 150 adult and children members.

Emma Hatton is a business reporter based in Wellington.

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