Ex-Con­tact land ac­quired

Trust to cre­ate park on for­mer power com­pany land

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS - By MA­JORIE COOK

Lug­gate res­i­dent Lewis Ver­duyn-Cas­sels’ year-long ne­go­ti­a­tion with Con­tact En­ergy to buy a plot of for­mer hy­dro-elec­tric­ity land for the Red Bridge River Park Trust is over.

The par­ties an­nounced last week a deal had been struck, with the trust to pay a de­posit now and set­tle the bal­ance in five years’ time.

Ver­duyn-Cas­sels said he was pleased and re­lieved the long ne­go­ti­a­tions were over, so the trust could start con­cen­trat­ing on cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity river park next to the Lug­gate Red Bridge.

He and his fam­ily were pay­ing the bulk of the de­posit, but donors had also made con­tri­bu­tions.

He de­clined to re­lease the de­posit amount, cit­ing con­fi­den­tial­ity, but said the bal­ance to pay in five years would to­tal $159,000.

The de­posit is based on mar­ket rates.

‘‘It was a very long ne­go­ti­a­tion be­cause there was so much de­tail in it and the doc­u­ment was quite large and we didn’t want an in­ter­est­bear­ing debt. That was a big part of it, be­cause as a char­ity, we couldn’t ne­go­ti­ate a mort­gage. There was no legal rea­son why we couldn’t but it was not prac­ti­cal be­cause we [the trust] do not have an in­come. So how can we have a mort­gage?’’

The trust was now plan­ning to up­date its na­tive flora and fauna restora­tion and fresh­wa­ter ecol­ogy project.

‘‘We have to talk to DOC and the coun­cil. We want to put a track in and start plant­ing. We are still aim­ing for an of­fi­cial open­ing on Oc­to­ber 28,’’ he said.

Ver­duyn-Cas­sels had pre­vi­ously been a long-term Con­tact En­ergy ten­ant on the 0.4ha prop­erty.

Con­tact’s gen­er­a­tion and devel­op­ment project manager Neil Gille­spie said the com­pany was ‘‘very pleased to reach an agree­ment that en­ables both par­ties to move for­ward pos­i­tively’’.

Ver­duyn-Cas­sels thanked sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing the Wanaka Com­mu­nity Board and nu­mer­ous donors.

Sep­a­rate to the sale to the trust, Con­tact is fi­nal­is­ing ar­range­ments to gift a 1.9 ha block of land next to the Lug­gate Bridge to the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

This is most likely to be achieved through the Queen­stown Lakes Dis­trict Coun­cil.

Con­tact has been pro­gres­sively sell­ing parcels of land it owns in the Clutha re­gion in re­cent years, fol­low­ing an an­nounce­ment in 2012 that it was no longer pro­gress­ing a pro­posed hy­dro­gen­er­a­tion devel­op­ment in the area.

The land to be sold to the Red Bridge River Park Trust is la­belled block 2. Blocks 1 and 3were ear­lier sold by Con­tact En­ergy. Block 4 is in the process of be­ing separately gifted by Con­tact to the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

Lewis Ver­duyn-Cas­sels at the Lug­gate Red Bridge.

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