A set of abandoned classrooms on unstable land up Brook Street has cost Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology $15,000 in lease and security fees, a “wicked waste” according to nearby residents who said the land should never had been built on.
The conservation education centre near the Brook Valley Holiday Park has been sitting empty for three and a half years.
The short-lived centre is made up of three pre-fab buildings on leased Nelson City Council (NCC) land. It had cost $500,000 and was opened in 2010 as a joint project by the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary and the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) who were to run the Department of Conservation (DOC) trainee ranger courses at the site.
The centre was closed in 2011 due to a landslide and earthquake risk. The course is now run at the NMIT Richmond campus.
NMIT and the sanctuary hoped to relocate the centre down the road to the Brook Valley Holiday Park. However, Brook Valley Community Group secretary Justine McDonald said the group had originally spoken out about the buildings going on the current site and was also opposed to them being moved to the park.
McDonald, who lived opposite the site, said the group had warned the council the land was unstable before it was built on.
“We kicked up a big fuss” she said.
She said the lease fees and the security that visited the site everyday had proved to be a “wicked waste”.
McDonald said the building should not have been put there in the first place.
“Anyone who lived in the area knew the land wasn’t too stable there, they went ahead and did it.”
The Brook Valley Community Group did not want to see the centre and the NMIT course moved into the Holiday Park either.
“What’s wrong with doing it at polytech? It doesn’t need to be at the camp. The camp is already half gone with the bird sanctuary.”
NMIT chief operating officer Martin Vanner said they were waiting on the Brook Recreation Reserve Management Plan decision about moving the buildings.
NMIT had not expected the centre to be sitting empty on the site as long as it had.
Vanner said NMIT paid $6,700 a year for security checks on all of its campuses and sites including the Brook. At an estimate, he said they would pay no more than $670 a year for the Brook site to be monitored.
“NMIT pays for a nightly security to ensure that site and relocatables are secure and safe as they are valuable NMIT assets.”
The sanctuary had the lease from the council, and NMIT subleased at $4360 per year, however, as of this year the council had relieved the centre from paying rent while it awaited the outcome of the Reserve Management Plan.
Vanner said NMIT had a memorandum of understanding to jointly use the facilities with the sanctuary.
In 2011 they were made aware of a landslide issue on the land.
“We sought legal advice and expert professional advice with things as they were, we were given advice it was not to stay on there incase there was a big earthquake.”
They had use of the area for less than a year before there was a slip on the land, he said.
When queried why NMIT chose to lease the land initially, he said in hindsight, they were given the wrong advice.
“On the basis of the advice we had at the time from engineers and geotechs there wasn’t an issue, unfortunately that advice wasn’t correct. We went to get further advice which led us to exit the site.”
Vanner said the council offered a reduced lease fee because the land was used for community and education use.
The course was now based out of the NMIT Richmond campus but students needed to travel to the sanctuary as part of their studies.
“It’s not ideal you have to travel all the way up the Brook to do things with the trainee rangers, hence the reason we moved in the first place.”
Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Trust General Manager Hudson Dodd said it had been working with the NCC on a plan to move the centre to the park.
“The Brook Sanctuary sees this as a very positive facility for Nelson. It provides unique training opportunities and is an important contract NMIT has with the Department of Conservation.”
The NCC said the draft Brook Recreation Reserve Management Plan is due to go to Council in the next couple of weeks for approval before it goes out to the community to provide feedback on during a formal two month consultation process. The final plan would define the activities that could take place within the Brook Recreation Reserve.
Retrieved from (http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/68829375/abandoned-brook-street-centre-a-wicked-waste) 28-05-2015.