Issues remain over possible uses of RSA building

The former RSA building in Itchen St, Oamaru. Photo from ODT files.
The former RSA building in Itchen St, Oamaru. Photo from ODT files.
More than two years after any future use of Oamaru's North Otago Returned and Services Association (RSA) building was called into question, the Waitaki District Council has yet to resolve the issues that have left the premises vacant.

The council voted to support a $4million redevelopment of the 1951 Itchen St building for a 10-year lease in February 2017, but the following month a 19th-century Act of Parliament was uncovered which possibly governs the site's use, bringing about the end to negotiations with Trustpower to convert the building into a call centre.

The Oamaru Town Hall and Gas Works Sites and Recreation Reserves Vesting Act 1875, which states the land cannot be leased to anyone for any purpose, had yet to be repealed, council chief executive Fergus Power confirmed yesterday.

"Council's property team has sought legal assistance in developing a number of options relating to the legislation restricting use of the RSA building for council to consider.

"Unfortunately, there have been a number of unexpected property matters, such as the Forrester Gallery mould remediation issue, that council's property team has had to urgently attend to," Mr Power said.

"This has slowed progress on the RSA building."

Asked when the council would be able to do something with the building, Mr Power did not answer the question directly.

He said once options for the building were "fully developed" they would be presented to councillors for consideration.

A public consultation process would follow, he said.

The council had been approached by interested parties in relation to the RSA building, but had advised them "the current legislation prevents council from leasing or selling the building at this time".

At a St John public information session this month for its proposed new purpose-built ambulance station at Awamoa Park, questions were raised about the suitability of the RSA building.

The site had been rejected by St John for several reasons, including its seismic resilience, rural Otago territory manager James Stewart said.

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