FROM THE FRONT PAGE
It was Verduyn-Cassels who cleared the property and renovated the cottage on it.
‘‘It was a sad state. Abused. Holes in the walls. The site was an ecological disaster.
‘‘I’ve since made huge progress. The value of this property is largely down to my time and effort.’’ VerduynCassels said.
He believed his investment would amount to more than $100,000 over two decades.
‘‘I’m trying to claim my equity to get a good deal and create the park.
‘‘They refuse to take into consideration of the contribution I have made to the value of this property,’’ he said.
‘‘We are at a stalemate situation . . . I’m devoted to my river conservation work for the benefit of everyone and all they are devoted to is their profit margins.’’ He had hoped to build the park so it would become an example of best practise for sustainable management for river conservation.
‘‘People think I’m being selfish but it needs to be done . . . It’s a totally unselfish thing. I want to help the community.
‘‘We are all connected to water. If we don’t care for it we are abusing our own lives, our future and future generations . . . Nature does not do bail-outs,’’ he said.
He had until last night to respond to the $300,000 offer and, as the Mirror went to print, was hoping to postpone the sale process by 60 days, to diffuse tension, allow time to form a charitable Red Bridge River Park Trust, raise funds, and hopefully settle with the assistance of mediation and has asked the Queenstown Lakes District Council to intervene in the best interests of the community.
The river park has gained support from Sir Alan Mark, who wrote an open letter urging the Contact Energy board to return some of their land to the community, members of the council, Wanaka Community Board and Forest & Bird.
Jones said the Conservation Department had not identified any of the blocks of land as having conservation values, but has done so for other parcels of land Contact were selling in the Upper Clutha, which the Department was in the process of purchasing.
The river park plan has included four lots of land at the Luggate Red Bridge.
However, ‘‘blocks 1 and 3 were preferentially offered for sale by Contact to current tenants and prior owners in the first instance and have subsequently been sold, meaning the River Park as proposed is no longer feasible,’’ Jones said.
Contact have decided to gift a 2.2 ha parcel of river side land and were deciding the most appropriate community organisation to gift it to.
Verduyn-Cassels said he still believed the park was viable by using the property he wants to buy, the parcel Contact were willing to donate, and the very large marginal strip. He said the trust would offer to assist the adjoining land-owners to control serious invasive species and that all the key elements of the proposal would proceed including; native restoration, loop track, picnic area, longfin eel habitat, community participation, education partnerships, and freshwater research. The trust would maintain the park in perpetuity for the community.