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Queen Mary Hospital site in Hanmer Springs

The historic Queen Mary Hospital site in Hanmer Springs has now been formally vested with the Hurunui District Council.

The transfer of almost six hectares of land and buildings, including Chisholm, the Soldiers blocks and Nurses home, was officially gazetted on the 19th August.

It is the final step cementing retention of the property in public ownership following seven years of campaigning by the Hurunui District Council, Queen Mary Reserve Trust, Hanmer Springs Community Board and the local community.

Environmental Services Manager, Andrew Feierabend, says the vesting ensures an important piece of not only the district’s but also the nation’s heritage will now be preserved for future generations.

“Queen Mary has played a role in the lives of many New Zealanders, from its early beginnings as a sanatorium to its role in the rehabilitation of soldiers from the Great War and later as this country’s sole drug and alcohol facility.

“It is a significant asset that deserves to be respected and preserved for new generations and not just because of its emotional attachment but also its character and park like surroundings, which are viewed by some as being to Hanmer what Hagley Park is to Christchurch.”

The fight to retain the site first began when the Canterbury District Health Board moved to sell Queen Mary in 2003 after determining it was surplus to requirements, a move which sparked protests within the Hanmer Springs township and a petition was presented to parliament asking that the land remain in public hands.

The Hurunui District Council has been one of the strongest advocates for the sites retention, following an heritage assessment which Andrew Feierabend says confirmed the historic value of the site, initially agreeing to set aside money to buy part of the site.

Over the years the Council has also been involved in lengthy discussions with a variety of interested parties before the Government agreed, with Ngai Tahu support, to vest the site in the Council as an Historic Reserve.

That agreement was finally ratified this month with the formal vesting which also now clears the way for a refund of development contributions initially collected by the Hurunui District Council towards the purchase of the site. 363 building and resource consent applicants are entitled to a refund now the Council is no longer required to purchase the land.

The Government has provided $1.5M towards earthquake strengthening and essential refurbishment of the land and buildings, which is currently underway.

Andrew Fierabend says once the buildings have been made weathertight they will be mothballed while an appropriate economic end use is found for them.

A Management Plan taking into account the views and needs of the community will be drawn up to guide the future use of the historic buildings and garden.

Suggestions so far include a museum, cinema, arts centre, indoor children’s playground, café, spa and health care related activities, boutique hotel backpackers or a rest home for the elderley.

Public submissions to help drive the shape and content of the Management Plan will be called for this month.

The Plan will then be developed by a stakeholder group made up of representatives with an interest in the Queen Mary site, including Ngai Tahu, the Queen Mary Heritage Trust, Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools Committee, Hanmer Springs Community Board, Businessman’s Association and DOC.

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