SHARE
Being explored . . . The Chisholm block, an historic building on the Queen Mary Hospital reserve site. The council is keen to explore potential future uses of the reserve as part of its long term planning programme. File photo

By Robyn Bristow

Developing a “destination playground” in the Hurunui district is one of several “possible” major proposals that could be included in the Hurunui District Council’s long term plan.

Mayor Winton Dalley says with two major highways running through the middle of the district – SH1 an SH7 – “we need to entice visitors to stop and enjoy the district in order to reap the economic benefits of this.”

The Hurunui District Council has now held four workshops in preparation for its draft long term plan for 2018 to 2028. With more workshops planned, the council expects to finalise proposals over the next few months before taking them to the public for consultation around
March 2018.

“The district is well known for our thermal pools and spa complex in Hanmer Springs and the Waipara Valley wine region.

“However, we have more to offer and the long term plan will provide ways of advancing
the districts overall attraction to visitors if projects like the destination playground are included.”

Another proposal being explored is the potential future use of the Queen Mary Hospital
Historic Reserve and the historic buildings on the site.

The reserve and buildings were originally used for soldier rehabilitation during the world wars,
then as a hospital for drug and alcohol-related issues. However the site now sits unused and despite seeking interest in the reserve across the globe, the council has not yet been able to secure any leases for the buildings.

Hurunui District Council Chief Executive Hamish Dobbie says the main issue holding back
this kind of development is the enormous cost of upgrading historic buildings like the Queen Mary Hospital site.

“If we can develop sustainable options for future use of the site in the long term plan, then
this could have the potential to provide huge benefits leading to long-term economic growth in our district,” says Mr Dobbie.

The council is also having to consider the cost of meeting new earthquake building standards.
With 50 Council owned buildings potentially being less than 34 per cent of the National Building Standard, decisions will need to be made on how much to allocate over the next few years to strengthen buildings and decide which ones to strengthen.

The council will make final decisions on its draft long term plan around February 2018 and will widely publicise this to give residents and ratepayers the opportunity to have a say on any proposals.

Mr Dalley says this is where communities can really make a difference.
“We are interested in what our residents have to say and the democratic processes of local government allow proposed plans to be fine-tuned as a result of public opinion,” he says.