Council land gained for free

The Cromwell Community Board quickly snapped up 1640sq m of land worth $550,000 for nothing yesterday.

The board did not debate before agreeing to amalgamate a piece of council-owned, unformed road in Melmore Tce with the land title of the neighbouring Cromwell Memorial Hall.

The Central Otago District Council decided last year it would demolish and replace the underused, outdated 72-year-old hall with a $16 million hall and events centre.

Designs and scoping plans are scheduled for approval this month.

The board was first asked to consider the title amalgamation in May.

It was an attractive prospect because it would extend design possibilities for the new hall but the board was shocked to learn the unformed road was valued at $550,000 and if the board agreed to acquire it from the council, the purchase price would be deducted from the $16 million budget.

So board chairwoman Anna Harrison wrote to council chief executive Sanchia Jacobs and asked if the board could buy it for $1.

Statutory property officer Linda Stronach said in a July 7 report the land could be transferred to the board for "nil consideration" but the board should pay $11,000 in survey and other fees.

Before anyone had a chance to open their mouths on the subject yesterday, Cr Neil Gillespie moved to accept the recommendation, prompting his colleagues to laugh and congratulate Ms Stronach.

Ms Stronach had barely summarised her report before Cr Nigel McKinlay promptly seconded Cr Gillespie and the amalgamation was speedily and unanimously agreed.

The council will be asked to sign off the deal on August 24.

Later in the meeting, the public was excluded from the board’s consideration of designs for the development, on grounds of commercial sensitivity.



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