Camp in profit before council takeover

BILL MOORE
Last updated 13:00 10/03/2014

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Home sweet home - Bill Moore meets the long term residents at Brook Valley Campground faces closure

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A steep rise in staff costs and overheads is responsible for the threatened Brook Valley Holiday Park's losses since the Nelson City Council took it over, figures supplied by the council show.

The camp was making money until the council took over its management during the 2010-11 year, its former leaseholder has confirmed.

The council is proposing to close the camp, displacing around 50 permanent residents, some of whom have been there for many years.

It says the camp is losing $175,000 a year, a figure that must be met by ratepayers.

Residents said they can't see where that loss can be coming from - and Tahuna Beach Camp Inc board members are also challenging it.

The Brook camp was managed by Tahuna Beach Camp for many years until 2010-11, when the lease came up for renewal and the council would only offer one year.

Figures from the council show that in 2010-11, when the council managed it part-year, it had a profit of $20,000 on income of $202,000, and staff costs including overheads of $99,000.

Under council management in 2011-12 income was $261,000, staff costs leapt to $197,000 and there was a loss of $82,000. In 2012-13 staff costs jumped again, to $244,000, and the loss rose to $164,000. The budgeted loss for 2013-14 is $177,000, with staff costs of $263,000. The council also greatly increased expenditure on utilities, from $44,000 in 2010-11 to $78,000 in 2011-12, $94,000 in 2012-13 and $97,000 in the 2013-14 budget.

Financial statements provided by Tahuna Beach Camp board chairman Seddon Marshall show that the Brook made a surplus of $12,175 on income of $205,759 in 2008, $2947 on income of $210,725 in 2009, and $20,378 on income of $234,466 in 2010. Its Brook staff costs in those years were $99,000, $106,000 and $108,000.

Mr Marshall, who has been involved with the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park since 1968 and was a city councillor for a record 33 years, said under the board's management the Brook camp had always made a profit.

"We did a lot of work there - put in a grey water system and upgraded a lot of the cabins."

When the council offered only a one-year lease the board had protested that the caretaker's house needed repiling, an ablutions block required an upgrade and there was some sewer work to be done. One year wouldn't allow the board to recover what the jobs would cost.

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But the council's property staff "told us we didn't know what we were talking about - the house was perfectly OK, it didn't need repiling, and the other work didn't need doing".

"We said ‘OK, that's your view, you can have it back'."

Mr Marshall also provided a copy of a draft deed of lease between the council and Tahuna Beach Camp Inc for the period 2005 to 2010. It states that the final expiry date would be June 30, 2010, which the council believed would be sufficient time to know if the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary could be successfully established.

It says: "If at the expiry of this lease the lessor decides to grant a new lease . . . the lessor may request any prospective lessee and the Brook Sanctuary Trust to form a new entity, or form a joint venture . . . in order to maximise the use of the property and the sanctuary ..."

Mayor Rachel Reese and Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Trust chairman Dave Butler both said on Tuesday that the sanctuary development - which got a $1.25 million funding boost from the Lottery Grants Board this week - is not linked to the camp closure proposal so far as they know.

The council has allocated

$1.036m towards the 14.4-kilometre pest-proof fence at the sanctuary, and gave $15,000 towards a feasibility study on a gondola to run from the camp to near the summit of Fringed Hill.

It has also approved the relocation of the sanctuary trust's conservation centre to within the camp's boundaries, and has ruled that the camp's operator, Nelmac, can't accept bookings for casual camping "while the future of the park is considered".

All these developments have caused residents and others to question whether there is an agenda to shut the camp to make room for development around the sanctuary and potentially, the gondola.

Backing Mr Marshall, long-serving Tahuna Beach Camp board member Garry Ward said the board had wanted a six-year lease on the Brook and hadn't taken kindly to the suggestion from a council and sanctuary trust delegation that they should be consulted on any plans for the camp.

"It was none of their business."

He said the Brook camp had always been just in profit under the board's management, campers were good to deal with and there had been no problems.

He was "absolutely infuriated" about the $175,000 loss claim: "That figure is bulls...."

What was happening at the Brook was also of concern in relation to the successful Tahuna camp, he said. Its lease came up for renewal in 2018 and if the council decided to switch to Nelmac management it would be "an absolute disaster".

"Anything that Nelmac touches seems to cost money. I don't think any holiday parks run by councils make any money."

Mr Marshall also challenged a statement by former mayor Aldo Miccio that the Tahuna camp was on the long list of amenities subsidised by the council.

"From 2005 to 2013 the holiday park paid to council as lease payments the sum of $1.727 million."

It also paid for all the sea protection work and all major capital improvements, totalling more than $2m, plus water and wastewater charges.

The asset, excluding land, was worth more than $18m, achieved at no cost to the council, and the holiday park generated an annual district-wide cash windfall of around $19m, Mr Marshall said.

The Nelson Mail has sought copies of all council reports on the Brook camp and communications manager Angela Ricker advised on Friday that these will be available this week.

Ms Ricker also noted that the "staff costs including overheads" figures "include a portion of council overheads and the allocation methodology changed across council in 2012-13".

- Nelson

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