An agreement with seniors living provider AVEO may have helped save an iconic course in the NSW Hunter region – but the project has presented myriad construction challenges.
The Shortland Waters Golf Club has had an interesting upbringing; its journey has been full of redevelopments, restructures, mergers and course relocations. Steeped in history, it is an iconic favourite amongst the local golfing aficionados in the Hunter Central Coast region. The club is now embarking on a visionary future as part of their latest reincarnation as a $66M integrated retirement living/golf course development which will see 300 retirement villa units, a 127-bed aged care facility and eight newly constructed golf holes. – Justin Trott
Where they started…
Waratah Golf Club was the first golf club in the Newcastle/Lake Macquarie region and second only to Maitland (1899) in the Hunter region. Prior to 1901, golf was played on the Waratah Common before the Waratah Golf Club was formed in 1901. Following the acquisition of the course by Broken Hill Property (BHP) in 1921, the Waratah Golf Club moved from Mayfield to its present site at Cockle Creek. BHP By Justin trott took over the vacated course to provide physical and social recreation for their staff and before long set out to find a new home for the course. Sites at Tarro and Beresfield were given serious consideration before the decision was made to relocate the course to its current Vale Street property in Shortland.
In 1936 it officially became the Steelworks Golf Club. When BHP closed steelmaking in Newcastle in 1999 the course was purchased by the membership. The facility was renamed the Shortland Waters Golf Club and today it enjoys a reputation as one of Newcastle’s favourite courses.
CHANGE OF PLAN: Shortland Waters’ old 1st hole (right) has undergone significant alteration; the green has been raised to effect better drainage and avoid flooding. The green also sits more diagonal on the approach, guarded by a bunker left, and now slots in as hole number 12 on the revised layout.
How they got here…
The years since 1999 have seen the club experience its fair share of highs and lows. Unfortunately, like a lot of clubs in Australia, rising expenditure and ever-increasing competition from other clubs in the area took its toll. Suffering from the burden of financial debt it acquired when purchasing the land from BHP, the club needed to look elsewhere for options to secure a sustainable future.
From mid to late 2000s, Chamber Developments appointed Richard Chamberlain (from Richard Chamberlain Golf Design) to undertake a masterplan of the course which provided for a retirement village and associated aged care living, incorporating an old, disused landfill site to the north of the existing course, referred to as Lorna Street.
The initial proposal from Chamber Developments included a relocated clubhouse and development near what was then the 18th tees neighbouring the Newcastle University. For a variety of reasons this concept didn’t tick all the boxes so the masterplan underwent several iterations to make the overall proposal a going concern for all stakeholders. In addition to the essential layout reconfiguration of the course, RCGD and the development team had to contend with numerous environmental challenges, given the introduction of the contaminated landfill site to the north which had been closed since the mid-1970s. This would pose significant challenges regarding potential risk for any stakeholder willing to take on the project.
After an eight-year search, the club finally struck a deal with AVEO, a top-200 listed company on the ASX, and for the first time in a long time, the club had a vehicle which would secure its future. The deal came just in the nick of time, allowing the club to be debt-free – a state it had not been in since acquiring the course from BHP in 1998.
Certainty to the club and its members has provided an opportunity to further develop the necessary planning approvals required to make this next chapter in the club’s history a reality and ensures that it keeps its integral role as major asset to the local community.
Where are they now…
After numerous proposals came and went, it was AVEO who eventually came to the club with a proposal which not only ticked all boxes for the club but also was financially viable for AVEO to pursue. Having worked closely with AVEO (and FKP) for many years in their landscape construction and maintenance division, Programmed Turnpoint had gained the confidence of AVEO to help work their way through what would be a long, drawn-out planning and approval process.
As Donald Rumsfeld once said: “There are known unknowns and then there are unknown unknowns.” This would be the case with the adjoining tip site, which lay immediately to the north of the existing golf course. Environmental restrictions placed on the project were encompassed in the first stage application of the project which ultimately culminated in the Remedial Action Plan, or RAP as it would affectionately be known. This was a 200-plus page comprehensive detailed report which tackled among other things:
- Sediment control and potential run-off causing environmental impacts to
the adjoining sepp14 wetlands;
- Habitat and nett gain assessment works impacted by the removal of vegetation on the site to allow for additional golf holes critical to the overall linking of old and new holes;
- Implementation of Hi Vis marker layers to separate the existing landfill capping layers to that of the new finished surface levels of the golf course;
- Implementation of low-permeability layers into the swales, which collect and transport surface water run-off from fairways, tees and greens so that standing water does not penetrate the underlying contaminate materials and therefore cause potential leaching and slumping;
- Gas emissions from the underlying contaminant waste permeating through to the surface;
- Engineering constraints around the future ‘sinking’ of the imported material over time and how best to mitigate this effect by adopting geomembranes and the installation of biaxial grids into critical assets such as tees and greens;
- Contaminant leaching caused by loading the site with imported material;
- Detailed earthwork cut-and-fill plans to ensure any excavation of the existing capping layer is recorded, scrutinised and managed in accordance with the RAP;
- Irrigation risk management procedures to minimise the effect on the differential ‘sinking’ nature of the site through technical design and construction methodologies;
- Construction methodologies to treat specific events such as what to do with excavated contaminant material, treatment of riparian zones, incorporation of bioremediation areas and the construction of sedimentation basins;
And many, many more…
Although the remedial action plan was comprehensive in what the project may encounter, because it was very much based on anecdotal evidence it had no absolute solutions – which made the design brief and therefore the overall construction budget somewhat of a guessing game.
A design and construct turnkey approach was the only possible way of securing certainty for the client and still having a viable project without the risk of massive variations or cost overruns.
Following on from the good work originally set out by RCGD, Turnpoint set out to tweak the final concept design to the point where there was sufficient detail submitted in the Construction Project Management Plan (CPMP) to satisfy and convince the EPA, Council and numerous other referral authorities that the methodologies and the proposed design would satisfy the RAP. Eventually in June 2017, a construction certificate was issued by council which allowed for works to begin in earnest some four years after the original proposal commenced.
Preparatory works commenced in late 2015 with the reconstruction of the club’s existing 1st green, which had washed away following a recent storm event. This green was remodelled after removing about 2000m3 of previously dumped gypsum which lay under the old green and was no doubt a significant contributor to its continual demise. This hole opened for play in May 2016 and has given the members a taste of what is to come.
Contractual negotiations with all stakeholders progressed enough to allow minor works to commence in December 2016, with the first stage of golf kicking off with the building of two par-3 holes on the existing club’s land. These will eventually become holes 2 and 11 in the final routing and will play a significant role in maintaining a continuous 18-hole layout whilst the new holes are being built and the residential precincts are rolled out.
Occupying the old turf nursery, the new 175m par-3 2nd hole plays downhill to a partially blind green of which most golfers will only see the top half of the flag and the water beyond. The hole unveils itself as one gets nearer to the front edge of the teeing ground where it then presents as one of the more interesting holes on the course falling some 12 metres from the back tee to the middle of the green.
The new 151m par-3 11th hole by contrast plays uphill to a long narrow green which is some 40 metres back to front and is set on an 11 o’clock to 4 o’clock angle. This hole will play much longer than the scorecard reads, as it rises some seven metres from the back tee to the middle of the green.
Preparatory works began on the Lorna St site with the spraying and chitter mulching to remove massive infestations of lantana, palm oil plant, wild tobacco along with numerous stands of cumbungi. These infestations were only occasionally broken up by the odd indiscriminate dumping of an old car body or surplus concrete from a local concrete pour from years gone by. This was a massive contrast to one of the more recent projects the Turnpoint crew undertook on the northern coastal sand dunes of Cape Wickham, King Island – they couldn’t be further away from the sand now.
Once the construction certificate was issued and last remaining permits were gained, the first rolls of HiVis marker layer were finally unrolled. These 6-metre wide rolls were specially imported from China through Geofabrics and will see most of the 105,000m2 Lorna St site covered in the orange fabric.
It is planned to move more than 70,000m3 of soil into the Lorna St site to build up the five new holes which will occupy it. This soil will comprise of some 40,000 m3 made up of an old on-site stockpile, presumably dumped there over the years, and the balance of 30,000m3 brought in via trucks from the local quarry. In all instances the material ultimately covering the HiVis marker layer needs to be of existing natural material (ENM) classification and certified as such before the EPA auditor will allow works to proceed. Any contaminant material is to be closely monitored and recorded as to where it has been dumped on site for future auditing and checking before it is covered with the marker layer. (Another impediment to an already complicated and difficult project!)
Due to the contaminant material upon which the new golf holes are to be built, the fairways have been lifted, with the typical mounding between holes which would normally be the case making way for drainage swales instead, which effectively sit on the existing capping layer of the tip. This minimises the amount of material being brought into the site (and therefore mitigating against undue loading of the site), whilst also providing the necessary drainage patterns across the playing areas to allow them to recover as quickly as possible during times of wet. These drainage swales will play a key role in transporting the collected surface water runoff from the fairways, tees and greens towards the north and ultimately out to the wetlands.
Now for the next challenge: how to prevent this collected water from permeating through to the land fill underneath? The provision of a low permeability layer in the form of a four-metre-wide roll of a geosynthetic clay liner (Elcoseal®) is to be installed in the invert of these drainage swales. This will then be topsoiled and seeded with a local native grassland mix to tie all the new holes together.
To protect the major assets of greens and tees, the adoption of a Tensar geogrid has been incorporated into the design and construction methodology. This will in effect keep the greens and tees in a uniform place and not subject them to any differential settlement from any sinking which may occur deeper down in the landfill site. This material will then be covered with level 1 clay material to ensure suitable compaction can be obtained in the ultimate finishing of the tees and greens.
Finally, irrigation infrastructure was given some serious consideration, given the longer-term impacts of any potential settlement which may or may not occur on its viability. It was decided to adopt a poly pipe approach in lieu of the standard PVC methodology. It was also decided to locate the dual mainlines down the centre of the fairways where we had maximum cover of the pipe. Locating a typical mainline down the side of holes was not a possibility due to the lack of fill in these areas and therefore effective coverage of the pipe.
Eventually the Lorna St site will be transformed from its hibernation as a disused landfill site to a sustainable recreation area. It’s not without its challenges – but to have the opportunity to turn a completely useless, noxious, weed-infested piece of land into a picturesque golfing landscape whilst contributing significantly to the viability of a struggling club, is something all involved are looking forward to very much. Time will be the judge, but if hard work and due diligence is anything to go by, then this will be a landmark project for many other clubs to follow.