Battle to keep room fails

SVEN HERSELMAN
Last updated 12:20 16/12/2013

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A campaign by Wairau Valley residents to keep the historic Wantwood Room in the area appears to have failed, with the Ministry of Education deciding to move it to Brayshaw Park, Blenheim.

The 94-year-old building has been at Wairau Valley School since 1949, but is no longer used. It sits on ministry land but is community-owned.

Wantwood Community Room Preservation Society was formed earlier this year and had been negotiating with the ministry to keep the building at the school or have it moved to another site in the Wairau Valley township.

"In February this year the ministry offered the Wantwood Room to Brayshaw Park and the Marlborough Stamp Club," said the society's founding member Angela Woolf. "Our group was formed after a questionnaire went out to the community. The replies concluded that the Wantwood room should either stay on site at Wairau Valley School or stay within Wairau Valley."

The group applied for an approval in principle with the ministry to keep the building on site.

The society's application was declined on October 7 by ministry property adviser Allan Roberts.

In a letter to the group he said the society should consider what options it had for relocation of the building, otherwise it would need to be included in the ministry's rationalisation programme. But on November 18 the society received an email from Mr Roberts saying there had been a "misunderstanding" and they could not relocate the building as it had been offered to the stamp club.

The ministry's acting head of sector enablement and support Marilyn Scott said the ministry would pay for this move.

"This move will be dependent on consent being granted to move the building. The ministry will fund the relocation because we understand the historic importance of the building to the local community and we're keen to have it preserved in the area where it can be used," she said.

The society had since written a letter of petition to Education Minister Hekia Parata and had also contacted Kaikoura MP Colin King.

In June, the society applied for heritage status for the building with the Historic Places Trust. That decision is pending.

"Why does the ministry want to remove a solid, tidy community-owned building that is costing them nothing to maintain and spend taxpayers' money to move it to a private organisation for clubrooms," Mrs Woolf said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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