FROM THE FRONT PAGE

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS -

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.

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