Waverley Bowling and Recreation Club (WBC) was founded in 1893 and is one of the oldest continually standing bowling clubs in New South Wales. It was originally located in Bondi Junction and moved to its present location in Waverley in 1966. Having amalgamated with Easts Group (Easts) in 2010.
After an extended period of satisfactory financial performance, WBC experienced a period of difficult trading from 2006 to 2009. As a result, WBC sought expressions of interest from other clubs that were interested in amalgamating. The process was successful with 7 clubs expressing interest in amalgamating with WBC.
Based on the representations by Easts, WBC choose Easts as the preferred partner. These representations were included in Information Documents provided to WBC members as well as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as required by the Registered Club Act and Regulations.
The MOU dated November 2009 between Easts and WBC contained several undertakings, some with a 20-year duration and in perpetuity. These include:
- “Subject to the profitability of Waverley’s premises the agreed period of time before Easts may cease trading on the premises of Waverley, or substantially change the objects of Waverley is 20 years from the date of completion of the amalgamation.”
- “Subject to the profitability of Waverley’s premises Easts undertakes to maintain the three bowling greens at Waverley for 20 years from the date of completion of the amalgamation.”
- “Easts intends to operate the premises of the bowling club in perpetuity from the date of the amalgamation, subject to continued profitability of the premises.”
The MOU also set out steps to achieve Profitability:
- “Easts will prepare a plan to upgrade the Waverley premises over a period of time. East’ position on this is that it has previously amalgamated with Kingswood Bowling Club and over a period of time spent significant money on upgrading the premises of that club as was necessary to make it a modern viable bowling and sporting club. It proposes to formulate a plan for Waverley and invest such money as is necessary over a period of time to allow the premises to become the premier club in Waverley and generally conduct the development in a manner as it did at Kingswood.”
- “Easts, as the corporate vehicle for the amalgamated club, recognises that it must and will maintain and upgrade the facility at Waverley’s premises which is in keeping with a modern social and sporting club, not constrained by one sporting activity or group.”
The Information document that Easts presented to WBC members went further and referenced the $4m that Easts spent on Kingswood Bowling Club and $3.8m spent on Berkley. It showed several before and after photographs conveying the message that Easts would transform the WBC premises in the same way. In their Strategic Plan and Vision document also provided to WBC members, their vision is “Quite simply, great community clubs”.
As a requirement of the Registered Club act and the MOU, the WBC entity dissolved and is now not able to enforce the terms of the MOU.
In the years that have followed the amalgamation, there is no evidence that Easts has upgraded or developed an appropriate plan to enhance the WBC venue is the fashion set out in the MOU. Further, it has failed to perform other obligations under the MOU, such as keeping certain honour boards (some of which are heritage listed) on display and maintaining the clubs name.
The MOU ink was only just dry when in 2014 Easts sought to rezone the site. Its current recreational zoning (RE2) provides for recreation facilities with a height limit of 8.5m and a floor space ratio (FSR) of 0.5. Easts sought a zoning of Mixed Use (B4) with a height limit of 45m and significantly increased FSR. This project was unpopular with the residents. Over 1000 residents signed a petition to council. Council also received over 500 written submissions. In the face of this community objection, Easts withdrew their application for rezoning.
The project was withdrawn before council could articulate a whole of council position, but preliminary assessment by Waverley Council staff was damning: “Dominates the streetscape, reduction in visual privacy, devastating overshadowing impacts, scale is too big – no relationship to developments adjoining the site.” “Unsympathetic towards streetscape/character of the area.” “Facades of the buildings are not well articulated – unreasonable visual impact. “Rezoning not supported Due to lack of available recreation zoned land within Waverley LGA.”
In July 2017 Easts sent a notice of EGM to members stating that they were looking to amalgamate with Bondi Golf Club. As part of this amalgamation, Easts stated that they would look to create 2 new bowling greens on the North Bondi Golf course site and develop the existing WBC site into an age care and child care facility.
Easts again stated a lack of profitability of the WBC site as the trigger. Easts have not spent “significant money on upgrading the premises” in a manner as it did at Kingswood and as such have not honoured the MOU. As noted above, the contracting party to the MOU has been dissolved so can no longer enforce the MOU. Easts declined a Sydney Morning Herald request for the amount spent of improving the club since amalgamation.
Since the amalgamation, despite only limited investment, WBC club has shown a continuing trend of improved financial performance as well as patronage as a sporting and social venue. Besides fielding many Men’s and Women’s club representative teams with some high performance players, tens of thousands of barefoot bowlers have participated at WBC. Based on publicly available information, one can determine that WBC was profitable in 2016 before the allocation of head office costs. Easts last published figures in their annual report for the WBC premises in 2015. Easts declined a Sydney Morning Herald request for the 2016 financial.
Amalgamation with Bondi Golf Club:
This club operates on crown land with a lease that expires towards the end of 2018. Easts have been advised by council that there are no guarantees that their involvement with the Bondi Golf Club will translate into being granted a new lease or a reassignment of the lease.
Easts also state that “The Board believes that the Bondi Golf and Diggers Premises will be profitable once the expenditure on the facilities is undertaken by the Amalgamated Club.” Members of WBC accepted Easts undertakings to develop and make Waverley a modern and viable club when they voted to approve an amalgamation with Easts in December 2009. These promises were never fulfilled.
Easts have called an EGM for 22 August 2017 where it is asking members to vote for the WBC site to be classified as “non-core” under the Registered Club Act and for members to vote for this land to be sold. This motion was defeated.