SOUTHERN Institute of Technology officials expect to know by April if they can proceed with a plan to run a turf management course at the abandoned Oreti Sands golf course.
Golfers throughout the country were left disappointed in March this year when the Southland Golf Club – which occupied the Invercargill City Council-owned Oreti Sands course – was forced to close because of declining membership.
The city council continued to mow the fairways after the Southland Golf Club departed as it worked through the future use of the land at Sandy Point.
In June, councillors agreed to provide the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) with a one-year lease to provide the organisation with the time to investigate if it was able to gain accreditation to run a course based at Oreti Sands.
Since then the SIT has been developing accreditation and approval documents for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) for New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture Services (Level 4 – sports turf strand) and New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture Services (Level 5 sports turf strand).
SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds said there was little it could do at the moment in terms of drumming up interest with prospective students.
When the SIT put the proposal to the city council, it indicated it planned to target the Asian market in terms of potential students.
“[At the moment it’s] only very soft marketing of letting agents overseas know we are looking into this because we can’t actually market [it] until we have NZQA accreditation and approval,” she said.
“[The feedback has been] low key until we know if we have the programme to offer.”
The city council has continued to carry out basic maintenance at Oreti Sands until the SIT can determine if it is able to run the turf management course or not.
Ms Simmonds has previously stated that if the Oreti Sands course was revitalised, the SIT would provide access to the course at an agreed fee.
The golf course would also be available for SIT students to play on.
In 2008, the Invercargill Licensing Trust and Community Trust of Southland stumped up $250,000 each to make improvements to the links course with the hope it could attract a large number of visitors to the region.
That never eventuated for the course, which was once ranked the 13th best golf course in New Zealand by a leading golfing publication.