$1.5m to sell Kimberley Centre

LONG PROCESS: The condition of the Kimberley Centre had deteriorated by the time it was sold.
LONG PROCESS: The condition of the Kimberley Centre had deteriorated by the time it was sold.

More than $1.5 million was spent to maintain the Kimberley Centre in Levin during a "ridiculous" eight-year sale process, figures released through the Official Information Act reveal.

The Kimberley Centre, which was a facility for the intellectually disabled, was closed in 2006 and placed into the lengthy and complex process required to dispose of Crown land.

The MidCentral District Health Board's property was finally cleared for sale by the Office of Treaty Settlements at the end of last year and sold to property developer Wayne Bishop in May.

Horowhenua-based MidCentral DHB member Lindsay Burnell said while he was happy the now- deteriorated property had been sold, he was concerned with the time it had taken.

"The process we go through in New Zealand to get rid of property like this is ridiculous," he said.

"There must be a better way of doing the process.

"I want the rights of people to be upheld but I believe the system works so slowly that the rights of the people are being compromised because of the loss of asset value in the end."

The cost of security and upkeep over the eight years was "dead money", Burnell said.

"I find it very frustrating seeing the asset and the cost and what the taxpayer gets at the end of it, what they've lost in the meantime, it would add up to a considerable amount."

This case was just an example of what was happening in other places throughout the country, he said.

"I don't know how you beat that process, but the process is costing you and I, as taxpayers, money." Figures obtained by FairfaxNZ show that $1,608,493 was spent on the centre from 2006 to 2014. Maintenance accounted for most of it, with a cost of $1,117,088, followed by building and plant depreciation at $160,712, electricity at $158,308 and security services at $138,076.

Only $203,499 of income was brought in during the eight-year period, which came from the sub- letting of some buildings on the site.

The sale price of the property, which had been valued at $3.85 million, could not be revealed.

MidCentral District Health Board commercial support services group manager Jeff Small said after the centre was put into the land clearance process the DHB had to "sit back and wait".

The process incurred some holding costs to keep the facilities maintained and for security, Small said.

"Sometimes we just have to bear with closed properties. The contractual arrangements made with the Ministry of Health meant the costs [of the Kimberley Centre] were passed back to the ministry, but this isn't always the case. The board does wear those costs sometimes."

The Ministry of Health was contacted for comment but did not respond before deadline.

Concern over deterioration of the property had been raised in the past after neglect and fires damaged buildings on the site.

"It worried me to see the deterioration because it was a reasonably tidy place, very tidy when it was closed," Burnell said.

"It's something that has upset a lot of people that drive past there every day . .. hopefully the new ownership can change that dramatically, but it will take time because there's a lot of things to do in that place."

Property developer Wayne Bishop, who is also a Horowhenua District councillor, said he could not yet reveal his plans for the future of the site but he expected a lot of work would be needed to bring it back to life.

Bishop was in the early stages of planning and preparing applications to the council and hoped to make an announcement next year.

"It's going to be a tough year," he said.

It is understood the centre may be redeveloped into a retirement village.

Burnell said the future of the site looked promising.

"We hope the new owner will turn it into something nice. We expect that will take some time."

Kapiti Observer