by ausgolf writer Selwyn Berg
Click here for State by State listings of developments across Australia
Living on a golf course is no longer a novelty. What started at Tura Beach in NSW in the 1970s and boomed on Queensland’s Gold Coast throughout the 90s has now grown to well over 100 residential golf communities Australia-wide. The Australian Government helped fuel the construction boom by approving several “Integrated Tourism Resorts” from the 1980s which enabled foreign ownership without FIRB approval (see below)
Whilst some golf estates are attracting young homebuyers and families, much of the dramatic growth has occurred as the “Baby Boomers” retire.
Demographer Bernard Salt (author of The Big Shift, a partner at KPMG and Australia’s guru on what the Baby Boomers are doing) has observed the “seachange shift” – the move to coastal areas beyond the capital cities. ‘Seachange is a modern and uniquely Australian term encapsulated by a popular television series of the same name first aired in 1998. The series was an immediate hit with the over-40s. It appealed to baby boomers who were then being swept along by surging property values. Doing a seachange can mean buying a holiday house or it can mean relocating to a beach community. The big shift in coastal property values didn't begin until early 2001. By 2004, most coastal property within a 2 hour drive of large capital cities was fully valued. In hindsight we all should have bought coastal property the moment Sigrid Thornton surfaced in Pearl Bay.’
Salt has also coined the term “treechange”, a much fuzzier community focus so that prospects for capital growth rely more heavily on lifestyle attributes:
‘The development should be located within a 2-3 hour drive of a capital city and preferably within easy drive; this requires a motorway for at least part of the way. The surrounding countryside must be pretty. Undulating hills lightly wooded with bountiful eucalypts go down especially well. A nearby town should possess essential services, and there should be a river or lake, vineyards and a GOLF COURSE regardless of whether the treechanger plays!
The most common retirement age for Australians is 58, so that with the baby boomers now aged 52-67, many are over the line. The baby boomers represent the biggest group in the Australian population (they are the fastest spending mass market according to AC Nielson) with an additional one million people moving to coastal areas. This is retirement and lifestyle driven.’
In retirement, the baby boomers are often realising capital gains on a city home, downsizing, and yet wishing to maintain their standard of living in a lifestyle location.
Heading the list of preferred lifestyles is both seachange and treechange. No surprise then that living on a golf course, often with added benefits (even for non-golfers) of security, club house amenities, and manicured open green spaces provides a highly desirable solution.
Some buyers who realise that they cannot afford a water view opt for living next to the open green spaces on the fairways. Golf real estate now accounts for an average eight percent of all new housing with some 50,000 blocks built or master planned since 1999.
The trend has not gone unnoticed by the authorities. Council planners have united to form the National Sea Change Task Force, formally constituted in November 2004 to develop policies that will protect the coastal environment, establish sustainable limits to growth and address funding issues. On the outskirts of big cities infrastructure and services such as roads, water and sewage, are put in place to encourage residential shifts, but on the coast, it’s the other way around. Water is a particular issue at the moment, following a long period of drought, but also sewage, sewage treatment, community facilities, sporting facilities, health facilities, education and the whole range of services that are required in a community. Aged care is an important one as the baby boomers retire.
A Sunshine Coast $250m residential golf development has met with a State Government call in after being approved by local Council, the Environmental Protection Authority and the majority of residents of the local community, as it was to be sited in a rural zone. In Victoria, the government launched a Coastal Spaces strategy in April 2006 to curb development along the state’s 2000km coastline. The State Government has even gone so far as to state that it “will crack down on housing projects masquerading as golf estates, mainly on the coast”. A new ‘farming’ zone is threatening an $800m golf estate at Inverloch, but the Bass Coast Shire has been overturned by the Planning Minister, granting the Linfox Group ‘rural activity’ zoning for their $300m golf tourism development.
above - the stunning Brookwater development in Sth East Queensland
Integrated Tourism Resorts
For resorts designated as Integrated Tourism Resorts before September 1999, you do not need foreign government approval to buy residential property that is within the bounds of the resort.
ITRs designated before September 1999
- Hamilton Island Resort, Whitsunday Passage, Queensland
- Hope Island Resort, Hope Island, Queensland
- Hyatt Regency Resort, Coolum, Queensland
- Kooralbyn Valley Resort, Queensland
- Laguna Quays Resort – Stage 1, Repulse Bay, Queensland
- Mirage Port Douglas Resort, Port Douglas, Queensland
- Palm Cove Travelodge Resort, Queensland
- Royal Pines Resort, Ashmore, Queensland
- Sanctuary Cove, Hope Island, Queensland
- Joondalup Resort, Western Australia
- Wirrina Cove Resort, South Australia
For resorts designated as ITRs after September 1999, the exemption only applies to developed residential property that is subject to a lease of 10 years or more to the resort operator and that is available as tourist accommodation when it is not occupied by the owner. The normal foreign investment rules apply to all other property within the ITR, including vacant land for development.
ITRs designated after September 1999
- Heritage Golf and Country Club, Chirnside Park, Victoria
- Hunter Valley Golf and Country Club Resort, New South Wales
- Kingfisher Bay Resort Village, Fraser Island, Queensland