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Game, Set And Match As Maccabi Tennis Courts Bow Out

By Marcus Braid on September 2, 2014 in News

Photo: Daniel Hutton

Photo: Daniel Hutton

The final tennis ball has been hit and community anger has continued to brew over the closure of Bondi’s Maccabi Tennis Centre.

The Sydney East Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) has recommended the Maccabi Tennis Club in Bondi be rezoned to a R3 medium density residential site with 42 apartments and 49 new parking spaces.

While moves to overturn the decision headed by a group called Rescue Bondi are still ongoing behind the scenes, the Wellington Street tennis courts closed in July.

“The bigger story here is that this is an example of what the state government’s planning apparatus is doing to local communities,” David Gravina from Rescue Bondi said.

“This is not just the neighbours saying no. [Waverley] Council has voted against it multiple times. The planners did a thorough piece on it; they’re local but independent and they concluded there was no case for the rezoning of this.

“The community interest was served by retaining its zoning. This was very carefully reviewed by the council and very objectively.”

Under the current planning laws, a developer has the right to appeal decisions multiple times through the process, and a panel of bureaucrats is delegated with the job of reviewing these appeals.

“They don’t show any sign of understanding the local context, which is kind of what you would expect,” Mr Gravina said.

“They don’t live here; they don’t have any connection; they’re not responsible; they’re not held accountable to the community, so they can do what they want. It’s just a panel that they’ve appointed.”

Officially, Maccabi stated the tennis courts needed to close because they couldn’t come to an agreement with the landlord.

“The situation is that they upped the rent,” Mr Gravina said. “It was already quite high, I believe. Whether or not Maccabi had an interest in running the courts is another question. They were running them down a bit – that was common knowledge.

“At the end of the day, from our perspective, it looks to us like a fairly cynical move to attempt to negate the community’s arguments for keeping the tennis courts.

“The owners have not even allowed anyone to play on the courts while everything is still up in the air. Logic would have that it’s business as usual until they knew what was going on. They decided to up the rent or create a situation that was untenable.”

A 500-strong petition from the local community was presented to Planning Minister, Pru Goward, requesting that she intervene and overturn the decision.

“We were all very impressed with the fact [Gabrielle Upton] delivered the signatures to Pru Goward, but of course the owners have now refused to renew the lease with Maccabi,” Lenore Kulakauskas from Rescue Bondi said.

“It’s really going to be up to Pru Goward now at this point if she can even make the decision.”

Ms Kulakauskas lamented the loss of the tennis courts, which have been used for over 50 years, as a “very sad day” for the community.

“The thing is there are no tennis courts around here, or very few,” she said. “When I was a girl, I grew up in Clovelly and there were tennis courts everywhere. There were tennis courts out the back of people’s houses that you could go and rent.

“Everybody played tennis and it was great. The kids would go every Saturday morning and would play during the week. The less tennis courts you have, the less you’re encouraging people to take up that sport. It’s pretty sad.”