Following the New Zealand Government lockdown alert over the Covid 19 outbreak recommendations have been made that all golf course facilities should close to assist with the fight to contain the virus, included in this recommendation/directive was the maintenance of these golf golf courses.

It has been the writers view since the recommendation was implemented, every effort should be made by all parties to see the continuation of our course upkeep with particular emphasis on the care of the putting surfaces.

The NZ government has made it clear in early publications that Turf maintenance is not considered an essential service and should not be undertaken at this time

While I realise and do agree that the maintenance of our course fits within this guideline I also believe that it was not the government’s intention when producing this document to see a business having to rebuild its assets once the restrictions have been lifted.

Our golf course is our only asset, without it we do not have anything to offer the market place, if we are to spend another month or two after the restriction is lifted repairing the damage to the course caused by this lack of attention that is another month or two without income.
A storefront will open tomorrow with all its assets intact, a company office will open with its documents computers and office furniture intact, a manufacturer will open with the machinery still ready to produce goods for sale, our golf course without proper maintenance cannot open until the asset behind the front gate is back to a useable state.

In the same document as noted above updated 8:00am 1st April I would ask the reader to interpret for me, is there now some wriggle room for our course maintenance to be re-instigated.

Alternative ways of working must be put in place
The entities listed above can continue to operate premises but must put in place alternative ways of working to keep employees safe, including shift-based working, staggered meal breaks, flexible leave arrangements and physical distancing.

Whilst the New Zealand Government is entitled to empower our clubs to adhere to strict guidelines below are a few reactions from other Golf Associations worldwide, these recommendations are current and equally subject to change as are the policies of the NZ Government.

- Golfworld publication relating to US Government reaction
- The R&A has published information relating to recommendations from each of the Home Union     Golf Associations
- England Golf - No specific instructions provided on course maintenance as of 30th March
- GUI / IGLU - Guidelines have been implemented to allow on course maintenance
- Scottish Golf   - As of 24th March greenkeepers able to continue maintenance under strict guidelines
- Wales Golf - Course maintenance can be continued under strict government guidelines
- Recommendations from the NSW Government released as of 31st March

In conclusion
It is widely recognised that here in New Zealand we were quick to react to this pandemic with closure of our borders and the introduction of the March 25th lock down, regretfully they are lagging behind when it comes to the implementation of guidelines for our golf industry………..!

Keep Safe be Patient be Kind
Ed

Decisions made on urgent turf maintenance The Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson has announced that urgent maintenance of turf and care for plants in non-plantation nurseries will soon be able to go ahead under Level 4 restrictions.

“The Government has agreed that urgent upkeep and maintenance of biological assets will be able to go ahead after the Easter Weekend. This includes non-plantation nurseries, stadia turf, and golf and bowling club turf maintenance.

“The criteria and conditions under which this maintenance can go ahead are being urgently developed by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment.

“I understand the implications if the maintenance does not occur regularly, including for community organisations, which is why we have moved quickly on these decisions.

“However I ask those wanting to undertake the maintenance to wait until the criteria has been published – we need to ensure there are clear guidelines for the health and safety of the community and turf management workers. There will be clear restrictions on any activity that is allowed,” Grant Robertson said.

“We have been making good progress in our fight against COVID-19, but we are still at Alert Level 4 and we cannot be complacent and risk undoing the excellent progress we have made so far.

“So I reiterate to all those who are wanting to undertake the maintenance – please do not do so until the guidance has been issued. Please stay home this long weekend but you can start to plan and prepare for urgent maintenance to get underway soon,” Grant Robertson said.

MBIE will release the criteria after the Easter Weekend.

The ball has started rolling as more support comes in for our plea to MBIE for an exemption that permits the "essential maintenance" of golf facilities.
National MP Nikki Kaye joined the cause by today launching a petition to be presented to the NA Government asking for a hasty end to the turf maintenance lock out.

Words from Nikki Kaye
A number of NZ sports clubs need to carry out essential turf maintenance. These sports include hundreds of golf and bowling clubs across NZ. If this maintenance is not carried out then the costs to these clubs will need millions of dollars in repairs. Under the NZ Governments COVID-19 rules there is no exemption for this maintenance to occur during lock down. In a number of clubs all they need is one person to be able to go onsite and in some situations it involves giving permission to a person who already lives on site to undertake essential maintenance. We want to ensure maintenance occurs in a safe way to respect the lock down period while ensuring we prevent damage to turf where possible. This is really important so that when NZ emerges from lock down kiwis are able to return to their local clubs and play sport.
Get on board with Nikki's petition here

Just over one week in to the nationwide lockdown and greenkeepers across New Zealand are desperate to get back to work. Greenkeepers desperate to get back to work 01:46 They fear their golf courses may never recover. Source: 1 News

Deemed not essential workers, they fear if they’re not allowed to care for their golf courses, some might never recover.

“Even if they got back in to it tomorrow, it’d still probably take them two to three weeks to get back to the condition they had ten days ago,” St Clair golf pro Patrick Moore says.

Already one week in to the lockdown and several greens are already starting to show signs of fungal disease in Dunedin.

“This year is a renown period for turf disease and there’s probably two or three different types of fungi out there at the moment,” Otago Golf Club superintendent Craig Parata says.

“There’ll be some courses around the country where the greens will just go and they may never get them back,” says Moore.

New Zealand Golf has applied to the government for a special exemption, to allow green-keepers to carry out basic maintenance during lockdown.

Former NZ Golf Pro Greg Turner, says it’s a must.

“The threat level in terms of what we’re trying to do in lockdown is virtually zero…whereas the consequences of not doing anything are pretty significant,” he says.

If no maintenance is carried out, the costs to restore several courses, he says could range in the millions.

“We know with a lot of golf courses around New Zealand, they’re on pretty tenuous turf economically, so that could spell the death of them,” Turner says.

A decision on whether they’ll be allowed to operate during lockdown, is expected in the coming days.

Source: 1 NEWS - Article by

While many may believe that their single signature makes little difference think again, the NZ National Party has launched a petition for tighter restrictions at our borders, how many have signed this is not yet public knowledge however the weight of numbers or the weight of newsworthiness of the petition has gendered some reaction from our government, in particular gained a comment from our Prime Minister. 
Excerpt from the New Zealand Herald website
The National Party is stepping up pressure over mandatory quarantining through an online petition but Ardern pointed out she has been planning it for some time and the Government is considering advice on it.

Get on board with this worthy cause help our green keepers get back to work so we have something to return to give it some traction and sign this petition today.

The R&A on Thursday clarified that all options are still on the table for the 149th Open Championship, including the possibility of postponement.

The statement came after Golf Digest reported Wednesday night that The Open at Royal St. George’s will be canceled.

In a statement, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the organization is “continuing to work through our options this year, including postponement. Due to a range of external factors, that process is taking some time to resolve.”

The R&A added that it will provide a further update when available. The Open is scheduled for July 16-19.

Unlike the Masters and PGA Championship, which were postponed with hopes of playing the events at a later date, Digest reported that The Open will be scrapped altogether, in part, because of an insurance policy that protects the organization against a global pandemic. A similar policy is in place for the All England Club, which canceled the Wimbledon tennis tournament on Wednesday.

The Open has not been canceled since World War II.

Last week, the New York Post reported that the U.S. Open at Winged Foot was set to be postponed until the fall. The USGA is expected to offer more information in the next two weeks.

For the past ten days New Zealand Golf with the support of Sports New Zealand, The NZ Sports Institute, NZ Sports Turf Institute and the R&A, have worked their hardest within the bounds of what they believed from previous experience was the best method for lobbying the government, to achieve an amicable outcome regarding the resumption of course maintenance with particular emphasis on the critical aspect of greens maintenance.

Are we to believe the not so insignificant combined voice of these parties has not in that time been able to parley a resolution.

Or is there someone in the New Zealand government who flat out dislikes golf and are happy to see us all on our knees paying for the cost of this well into the future, the damage that will be caused by further delay to the upkeep of our putting surfaces could and will likely cost in the thousands of dollars.

Who will pay for the reparation, the NZ Government, unlikely, so our membership fees will go up, the cost of green fees will go up, levies may have to be applied, some clubs that were already struggling with their finances may well be forced to close.

In closing we here at Golflinks ask you while you’re all dressed up your new winter clothing that you desperately needed, drinking beer from that new fridge you just bought online, have a voice for our cause.

Email, Facebook, Twitter any or all of the departments listed below to voice your personal concerns at the governments seemingly lack of attention to our request for exemption. For the turf maintenance across all sectors (golf, cricket, bowls, tennis, parks, stadiums, horse racing, croquet etc etc). This will at worst take you 15-20 minutes of your time but could save you and your golf club hundreds of dollars into the future. Simply write a comment and post it to each of the parties below or use of modify our example provided herein.
----------------------------------

As a member of (Your golf club name) I am extremely concerned for the future welfare of my Golf Club. If the New Zealand Government does not make a decision on our course maintenance exemption in the immediate future the cost to our club and to us personally as members will be unfathomable, it is likely that our club and many others will not recover from this.

Please use every avenue in your power as a representative of us as New Zealand citizens to see some sense in allowing our greens staff to get back to their course maintenance programs. Our greens staff are responsible workers capable of setting a work safe plan that would work within H&S guidelines.

I respectfully look forward to your views and a positive outcome to my request.

Yours Sincerely (Your name here as and when needed)

Lobby these groups: MBIE - https://www.mbie.govt.nz/about/contact-us/feedback/
Email -
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/MBIEgovtNZ/
Minister of Sports Development (Hon Grant Robertson) - https://www.labour.org.nz/grantrobertson
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/GrantRobertsonLabour/
Spokesperson for Sports Development National Party (Hon Nikki Kaye) - Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/NikkiKayeMP/