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The Queen Mary Reserve Trust

The Queen Mary Reserve Trust

Canterbury District Health Board decides to sell the historic Queen Mary Hospital site, Hanmer Springs.

³It is a negation of morality that the site is to be sold,² said Dr. Robert Crawford, Chairman of the Hanmer Springs based Queen Mary Reserve Trust. ³ The site started life as a public park around the Hot Pools, and it was only an accident that land was taken to build a hospital there in 1916.

If the Board has no use for the site, then it should hand it back to the people of New Zealand. It obtained it in the first place by slight of hand in 1981, when the Minister of Health declared a fee simple ownership by the then North Canterbury Health Board. I am sure nobody then thought the land would ever be sold, but would be retained for public purposes. We have had a petition out which seeks to keep the land in public hands, and people from Auckland to Invercargill have been eager to sign it. They are all fed up with the Government selling off Crown land.²

The District Health Board have left it to the Hurunui District Council to ensure that historic buildings will be protected by resource consent. ³But everyone knows that if you have unsympathetic developers with plenty of money, they can usually get what they want by going to court ² said Dr Crawford. ³It¹s the same with notable trees - they don¹t mind paying a few thousand dollars to get a tree out of the way.²

If the site is sold, then it has to be offered to the Ngai Tahu, who have expressed their willingness to purchase. The local authority, the Hurunui District Council, has already passed a motion to acquire part or all of the site from them if at all possible.

This action of foresight is much approved of by the Trust Board, given the circumstances. However Professor Roger Keey, a Trust Board Member adds that ³It really amounts to statutory theft from the people, and the raising of an extra tax if the Hurunui District Council has to spend money to buy back part or all of the site. However the money is raised, it comes from the people. The Board says it will plough the money back into Health, so we are paying for that by another route.²

The Trust considers the Board should be passing control of the site to the Hurunui District Council via the Department of Conservation. ³Once control passes into private hands, anything can happen², said Dr. Crawford. ³ Look at Waimate Hospital. It was bought by Ngai Tahu and the Mayor of Waimate is recorded as saying Ngai Tahu seemed sympathetic to the community¹s feelings on the nature of the place. But Ngai Tahu on sold to private developers recently without any restrictions.² Dr. Crawford likened the situation to the Enclosures in 18th century England, when the people were excluded from common land. As a poet of that time put it:

³ ŒTis bad enough in man or woman To steal a goose from off a common; But surely he¹s without excuse Who steals the common from the goose.²

The Queen Mary Reserve Trust would like to see the Labour Government step in with some leadership to sort out the situation. ³We require someone with a vision of what this land was originally for to diverge from the petty bureaucratic view forced onto a Health system by lack of funds,² said Dr. Crawford.

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