Upset over sale

Fed up: Queenstown Plunket volunteer Ella Wilson

Queenstown Plunket stalwarts are ‘‘very concerned’’ their national organisation’s sold its
valuable CBD rooms allegedly without consulting the local community.

Last November, Plunket sold its Henry Street property in an off-market deal for $2.45 million — a price substantially less than its latest capital valuation (CV) of $3.98m — to Ngai Tahu Property.

Plunket’s now leasing the rooms — used to provide support for mums and their babies or
preschoolers — for two years while it explores new options for delivering its services.

The national organisation took over the property from the now-disbanded local committee in 2017.

Regardless, Ella Wilson, a Plunket volunteer for 56 years, latterly in Queenstown, says ‘‘the
community should have been told about the sale because the community has contributed so much over the years’’.

A Plunket GM, however, says their chief executive did discuss the sale with local Plunket’s for mer group president.

In a letter Wilson and Whakatipu Plunket’s last president, Catkin Bartlett, wrote to outgoing
chief executive Amanda Malu, they say the local Plunket community, ‘‘made up mainly of
volunteers, has worked hard to maintain its properties firstly at Camp St and latterly at Henry St’’.

‘‘This vested interest has been ignored by the Plunket executive, which is causing concern and distress at the uncertainty as to what the future holds for the welfare of our Plunket
community in the Whakatipu Basin …

‘‘Our Plunket volunteers are fed up with the lack of transparency shown by the Plunket executive, such that we are losing the volunteer support for fundraising events, to the point
some planned events may no longer be able to proceed.’’

As an example, Wilson says Plunket’s long-running garden tour, which last year raised about $9000, may not proceed this year.

Bartlett — who commends the ‘‘excellent, skilled and dedicated work’’ by Plunket’s local staff who’ve worked ‘‘tirelessly’’ during Covid despite constantly-changing situations — says
her outgoing committee understood, according to national Plunket’s draft rules of the time, ‘‘that local consultation with the community would be required if our local asset were to be

Hostile environment: Reasons cited for the sale included the “many negative issues” with Henry Street

‘‘There was no communication or consultation with the community regarding the disposal of the Plunket rooms, nor has there been any subsequent consultation or engagement regarding ongoing service provision or facility.

‘‘These rooms have provided a sanctuary, place of learning and an opportunity for  generations of Whakatipu families to hone their parenting skills, and a venue for many community and family events.

‘‘I am sad the community has been excluded from such critical decision-making that affects so many in our community.’’

However, Matt Kenny, Plunket’s finance, technology and commercial GM, says its chief executive did communicate with Whakatipu Plunket’s former group president.

She explained, he says, the sale was related to the planned civic centre development in the area — a project Ngai Tahu and the local council are working on — and that they had negotiated a lease-back arrangement while relocation options were explored.

Kenny also tells Mountain Scene there are ‘‘many negative issues’’ associated with Henry St including the lack of carparking and the fact the building’s likely to require weathertightness remediation.

He insists the proceeds of the sale, which he says isn’t impacting on Plunket’s current services, are earmarked to cover the costs of future local Plunket rooms and services.

The local team had expressed an interest in moving to Frankton but keeping a CBD  satellite, possibly in the civic centre, however Kenny says the community will be
consulted over this in the next year or so.

He adds they’re satisfied with the sales process followed, and says at the time the property’s CV was only $2.65m.

Not Plunket’s first contentious sale

There was also controversy 38 years ago when Plunket announced it was auctioning its then-Camp St rooms, which cornered Beach St, so it could rebuild larger premises on land it had acquired in Henry St.

This set off, Scene reported in 1984, ‘‘a stormy series of events’’.

The then-borough council was upset to see the sale of the joint-use facility — the rooms
included public toilets — after years of cooperation and goodwill between the two bodies.

There was even a last-minute petition set up, to no avail, to try to save the rooms.

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