Brook - March 5
Campground closure plan raises questions - March 5, 2014
It's hard not to feel for the permanent residents of Nelson's Brook Valley Holiday Park over the campground's proposed closure.
The news was hand-delivered by Nelson City Council officials last Friday, and came as a shock to the 50 or so permanent residents who have made it their quiet and affordable home in a city where affordable accommodation options are limited.
The council says the campground is losing $175,000 a year. It suggests that better use of its campgrounds - it also owns the large Maitai Valley and Tahunanui facilities - will see the Brook closed and its residents given the option of moving to the Maitai.
The financial loss is disputed by long-term Brook residents, who suspect there may be other reasons for the proposed closure.
Some believe it may be linked to the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary development or a proposed gondola in the area.
Residents also say the campground only started losing money since a change of management two years ago, and they question whether maintenance costs are too high.
Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese says there is no other agenda, and that the financial problems need to be addressed.
She says the closure is not a foregone conclusion, and the residents' views - as well as those of the wider community - will be listened to during public consultation.
The campground's losses call for action, but also raise questions.
How did the financial problems get so large? Have other avenues been explored to increase revenue or cut costs before the closure proposal was produced? And if the council decides to go ahead with the closure, what will the land be used for?
Single residents at the Brook pay a modest $80 a week for their site, including power. Most would agree that the rents could be increased - a $20 a week rise would make a $50,000 dent in the shortfall. That would still leave a sizeable loss, but other options are open.
The campground seems ideally located to complement the Brook sanctuary or other tourist-related developments in the area. The sanctuary has already received approval to locate its conservation centre within the campground boundaries, and eco-accommodation for tourists or school groups could be a logical addition.
The sanctuary trust says it can see the "potential synergies" with the campground, and that it had no knowledge of the closure proposal.
Whether a revamp is feasible or affordable, and whether it fits in with a permanent community, should all be part of the public discussions.
One aspect of the permanent residents' tenure may have to change in any event - owning cats next to a native bird sanctuary does not augur well.
Councillors have promised to approach the consultation phase, which will run for a month from March 28, with open minds. Creative and practical solutions may yet emerge, but the decision shapes as a difficult one. It will be best for all concerned that the information provided is full and frank.