Nelson Residents Association

YOUR CIVIC GUARDIAN

Brook - Moira sub

Oral submission to the City Council Community Services Committee

by Moira Bauer on May 15, 2014

 

Good afternoon,

My name is Moira and I am here on behalf of the Brook Valley Community group to speak about the future of the Brook Valley Holiday Park.

We are here because we would like to see the camp reopened, and because we fear there is a hidden agenda driving the closure proposal. We’re not sure who’s driving it, but it is clear that the original report misrepresented information surrounding the camp to the council, so we would just like to present the information we have found to those in charge of considering the camps future.

The future of the camp and the development of the sanctuary are inextricably linked. This is clearly documented.

The 2005, draft deed of lease between council and Tahuna MC Inc, states that the final expiry date would be June 30, 2010, and I quote “which the council believed would be sufficient time to know if the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary could be successfully established.” end quote

Then in 2010, from the Sanctuarys Dec newsletter, quote - “The Nelson City Council has taken over the management of the Brook camp to provide for the alignment of management of this area with the future development needs of the Sanctuary” end quote

To continue, I would first like to clarify some terms.

When I speak of the camp I speak of an operational business, distinct from the land it is sitting on, which should be considered a strategic asset in its own right. When referring to the land I shall speak of the campground.

When I speak of the Sanctuary I speak of the Idea of the Brook wildlife conservation efforts, which brings many benefits to the nelson region in terms of education from primary school age to Doc ranger training, and which is a considerable and admirable effort to protect a unique piece of land and its native inhabitants.

When I speak of the Trust, I speak of the established board which is currently driving the sanctuary proposal.

With the sanctuary being a large project underway in the nelson area, the camp and the sanctuary should be perfectly complementary. The camp and its facilities could surely be put to good use for school camping trips, overseas sanctuary volunteers, and users of the mountain bike tracks up the Dun Mountain, also held in high regard for the tourism and benefits it can bring to the region.

But currently we are having issues around the co-existence of the camp and the trusts sanctuary plans. The Sanctuary is already encroaching upon the campground, with the NMIT buildings and the Visitor centre both set to be relocated within the campground by the years end. The original resource consent allows for 20 marked parking spaces. You cannot provide adequate parking for the Sanctuary, the NMIT buildings and perhaps also a gondola within the campsite, and still have a viable Camp.

We are not convinced the trust has the best interests of the nelson city at heart, and while we happily espouse the benefits of the sanctuary, there are issues with the fence, which seems to be more of a construction target than a conservation target. And here’s why I say that;

In politics it always pays to follow the money. Who profits from the fence construction? Why, the construction company. Opus.

Having discovered that an individual on the brook trust, who led the effort to gain resource consent for the fence, also worked for opus at the time, seems like a slight conflict of interest. That said individual left the trust after securing the resource consent, and is now the Opus project manager of this fence construction process, and a paid consultant of the trust, smells more like hidden agendas and corporate cronyism.

Furthermore, the construction of the fence requires around 9 hectares of native bush be cleared from around the fence margins. The Brook conservation reserve is unlogged, old growth, native New Zealand forest. That’s pretty spectacular. Allowing 9 hectares of such rare native land to be cleared in the name of conservation is madness, especially when the benefits of a fence for pest control as opposed to conventional trapping methods are not clearly documented.

We believe the Sanctuary could offer just as many benefits to the city without the fence. The forest is a treasure in its own right, and the birdlife is already flourishing. Except then of course, no one gets a whole load of money to build a fence, and you can’t keep people out to charge entry. Drat.

It seems very much as though the camp has been waylaid while a land grab is underway within the campground. It would be sad to lose the camp, but it would be tragic to lose the camp solely to allow for expansion of the sanctuary. The camp is an established and profitable venture, while the sanctuary is currently still of questionable viability.

Ideally, we would like to see the camp reopened immediately. It doesn’t take any more to mow the lawns and wash the bathrooms if they’re being used by 50 or 100 people, so it makes sense to accept any additional income if it comes at no cost. A number of the “permanents” here have already volunteered to manage the running of the campground. The logistics of this would of course have to be carefully considered, but it’s an entirely viable solution. That cuts back on maintenance costs, AND of course you lose the substantial cost contribution of council overheads.

All long term negotiations can continue, but in the meantime, time is money and we're not expecting a further proposal for a few months. This would also promote both the camp and the sanctuary among visitors to the region. Who are still being turned away on an almost daily basis.

We urge the council to perhaps conduct one last feasibility study before going ahead with the Trusts planned construction project, this time evaluating the costs and benefits of having a fenceless sanctuary, and sticking with conventional pest control methods.

We also request that the council organise, or allow us to organise, an open day for the upper brook valley. Many nelson residents have never even been up to the camp, let alone the sanctuary. We would like to show the public around the little slice of paradise in their backyard, preferably before public consultation around the camps future is begun.

Fair public consultation also requires more transparency from the council.

We ask that the minutes of meetings discussing the camps future be reopened to the public, and for the council to make publicly available information such as lease agreements, the official status of the land occupied by the camp, and any long-term financial commitments between the council and the Sanctuary, as these are high risk projects that may affect future Nelson ratepayers

I’d just hate to see this lovely patch of land turned into car parks and / or suburbia, and with the policy to consider divesting areas of the Brook Reserve, and the recent rezoning of the upper brook valley from rural to residential, any further developments are being viewed with suspicion.

In conclusion, we believe there are agendas behind the camp closure proposal, and we urge councillors to continue to use their own good judgement in their powers as councillors, and consider the camp as an asset in its own right.

Thank you for your time.

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