Councillors back land sale

PLANNED: An artist's impression of the proposed new Meridian Energy office building in Twizel.
PLANNED: An artist's impression of the proposed new Meridian Energy office building in Twizel.

Meridian wants to pay the Mackenzie District Council $569,420 for a prime central site on which to place its new Twizel office.

The parties have signed a conditional sale and purchase agreement for some land at the main entrance of Twizel's Market Place.

District councillors unanimously supported the land sale at a council meeting in Fairlie yesterday.

The agreement gives both parties 40 working days to present concept plans to the community and allows the council to sign off on the final design of the new building.

The sale to the state-owned power company sparked opposition from some Twizel residents, with a petition being presented to the council.

The site is Lot 1 at the corner of Ruataniwha Rd, Mackenzie Drive and the entrance into a main car park.

The petition, which attracted 46 signatures, called for urgent consultation with residents and ratepayers "to consider the effects any proposed sale would have on the main entranceway to the car park and Market Place".

Cr James Leslie told the council that the local community had not been consulted "whatsoever" had caused issues, one of which was the placement of Meridian's new building.

"I haven't heard anyone saying they don't want Meridian in town - not one - and I fully support Meridian moving into Twizel. But it comes down to where."

Leslie proposed that the council goes back to Meridian to ask if it would consider "moving back" to Lot 3.

Leslie said it would fit better, and make an improvement to the back of Market Place, the town centre.

Mackenzie mayor Claire Barlow acknowledged that the council had been put in a difficult predicament in not being able to release details to the public about the sale.

She said Meridian had first approached the council last year. "Meridian are very responsible corporate citizens and good ratepayers - they have always done right by Twizel people."

Acknowledging that some members of the public opposed the sale, she said "locals don't always get it right".

"That piece of land doesn't belong to Twizel, it belongs to the district, and we have been elected to do what is best for the district."

Barlow said Meridian moving into Twizel from its present location, four kilometres out of town, would also bring more revenue to nearby businesses.

Cr Graham Smith said a "flip-flop on the location at this stage would be pretty poor". "It wouldn't be good if we as a council turn around and say to Meridian ‘no, you can't go there'. It could potentially knock the confidence out of future developers."

Smith said the land had been for sale for eight to nine years.

"Why haven't the community identified it and put it aside?"

Cr Evan Williams said the council should support the sale as it was "good for Twizel and good for the people".

Cr Noel Jackson urged the council not to be hard-nosed over the contract and acknowledged that Meridian "had put a lot into the community over the years".

The Timaru Herald