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By ROBYN BRISTOW

The Ministry of Health is quitting the rest of the former Queen Mary Hospital site at Hanmer Springs.

It has decided to dispose of the prime 9.42-hectare property on Amuri Avenue, declaring it surplus to its needs.

The site, which has a capital value of $6 million, includes the Rutherford ward – the administrative hub of the once-renowned alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre.

It has been in Crown ownership since it was bought from Ngai Tahu through the “Kemp Purchase” of June 1848.

The northern part of the property – 5.2 hectares – was transferred to the Hurunui District Council in November 2010 after many years of lobbying for public ownership of part of the site.

However, the bulk has remained in Crown ownership and in limbo, with the ministry as caretaker.

The Hurunui District Council has decided it has no interest in acquiring the property for a public work, such as a sewage plant.

Its decision follows a letter from the agency Property Group, charged with disposing of the property on behalf of Land Information New Zealand, which is acting for the health ministry.

Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley said nothing was signalled in the council’s long term plan for the site or in its 30-year infrastructure plan.

“We don’t have any reason to acquire it for a public works,” he said.

The land is zoned for business in the council’s Operative District Plan and is in the Amuri Avenue’s business zone.

Cr Jason Fletcher said if the land was eventually put up for sale it could be a wise investment and would be an opportunity to “influence what happens there”.

It was a significantly large piece of land, he said, which could have a huge impact on the Hanmer Springs village in the next 20 years.

The council’s manager of regulatory services, Judith Batchelor, said the council at this stage could only submit an intention to acquire it if the land was needed for a public works.

Other agencies were also being asked for clearance to dispose of the site, for which Ngai Tahu would have first refusal under the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998.

A morgue, that was built on the site in 1902 and assessed by Heritage New Zealand as being the earliest intact building on the site, will be shifted to the council’s northern part of the property.

The council already has an agreement to move the morgue, which is in poor condition, and other items of interest.