Conservationist 'gutted' by Contact offer

Last updated 05:00 22/05/2014

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Wanaka river conservationist Lewis Verduyn-Cassels is "gutted" an offer he made to Contact Energy to buy land to build a river park near Luggate has not been accepted.

Verduyn-Cassels submitted an offer of $190,000 for the land, which included the cottage he has lived in since 1991, but Contact have counter offered to sell the property for $300,000.

Contact corporate communications manager Shaun Jones said Verduyn-Cassels' offer was significantly below several independent market valuations.

"We have provided Mr Verduyn-Cassels with what we believe is a fair counter offer along with a week to consider this," Jones said.

Contact decided to sell off its land portfolio along the Upper Clutha River following a decision last year to stop working on plans for a Luggate dam.

The river park proposal was developed by Verduyn-Cassels, landscape architect Anne Steven, and Luggate resident and historian Graham Taylor.

They hoped to create a park on about 2.75ha of riverside land which would serve as a recreation area, an education destination, research facility, native nursery and a local history resource.

A Red Bridge River Park Trust would administer the park for the community.

Verduyn-Cassels would have to purchase the land to vest it to the trust.

"I sincerely believe that this special riverside land should be a community river park, and so I must do my best to purchase it for this purpose," he said.

He believed his offer for the .4ha property, which had a dwelling on sitting on piles, was fair as it was the same as what a neighbouring property of 1.79ha sold for.

A valuation found it to have a market value of $395,000.

"I thought it was a fair offer. I thought they would come to the party. I'm just feeling gutted," Verduyn-Cassels said.

"I'm gutted because I desperately want to buy this land for the river park, but their counter offer is beyond my means," he said.

Sir Alan Mark wrote an open letter urging the Contact Energy board to return some of their land along the Upper Clutha River to the community, either by donation or on good terms.

Contact have decided to gift a 2.2ha parcel of river-side land and were deciding the most appropriate community organisation to gift it to.

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