HS Soldiers Block mothballed

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The Soldiers Block at the former Queen Mary Hospital grounds in Hanmer Springs isto remain mothballed for an unknown period.
‘The reality is, the Hurunui
District Council has a small rating base and other spending
priorities at the moment.’
— Hurunui District Council CEO Hamish Dobbie
The $5 million bill to earthquake strengthenthe historicbuilding has proved too costly a burden for the Hurunui District Council’s small rating base, so the work has been shelved.
The mothballing also means the council-owned Hanmer Springs Thermal Pool and Spa complex will have to look elsewhere for new staff headquarters.
Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie says it had been hoped to raise the funds needed but the reality now was it is not ‘‘going to happen in the short term’’ with a working party failing to find a way forward.
The Soldiers Block, aCategory 1 Historic Building which recently celebrated its 100th birthday, was officially opened in 1916 for veterans to recover from shell shock and other mental and nervous disorders after World War 1.
It is one of only two remaining Soldiers Block hospitals in the country and the only one remaining on its original site.
Without earthquake strengthening the building can not be used, says Mr Dobbie.
But the council is not giving upon plans to upgrade the historic block in the future.
‘‘It is justgoing to take us a lot longer than we hoped.
‘‘Its not feasible at themoment but will always remain on our agenda for the long term. We look forwardto the day that this beautiful building isopen and enjoyed oncemore,’’ says Hamish Dobbie.
He said at the moment the building is largely unusedand strengthening it would have enabled the leasing of all or parts of it, so it couldgenerate an income.
‘‘Unfortunately thatis notgoing to happen in the shortto medium term.
‘‘The reality is, the HurunuiDistrict Council has a small rating base and other spending priorities at the moment,’’ he said.
The Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa was to lease part of the building, after it wasstrengthened, to house its management offices and staffroom.
‘‘We have now advised the pools management committee to look at alternatives,’’ says Hamish Dobbie.
‘‘The current office building is cramped and working conditions are less than ideal. In peak season, there are up to 30 lifeguards sharing one small staffroomand office staff are sharing very small offices.’’
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa generalmanager Graeme Abbot says his team is now looking into upgrading their current office building.
‘‘It is ashame thatwe won’t be able to move into the Soldiers Block as planned, but we hope to in the future.
‘‘We will ensure the upgrade of our office block means it can be used by other parties in the future. If the Soldiers Block does become habitable, we would like to be there,’’ he says.