Public Access Priority For Queen Mary Hospital Land and Buildings

Retaining public access into and through the former Queen Mary Hospital site in Hanmer Springs is one of the priorities identified in a draft plan for managing the new reserve.

The Draft Queen Mary Hospital Historic Reserve Management Plan has been drawn up by a stakeholder group following the vesting of three heritage buildings on five hectares of land in Hanmer Springs, with the Hurunui District Council last August.

It outlines the overall vision for the maintenance and enhancement of the newly vested reserve, and will help guide the future development, planning and use of the land and buildings.

Hurunui Mayor, Winton Dalley, says under the draft plan the community would be encouraged to use and enjoy the site they fought to retain in public ownership

“Queen Mary Hospital played a role in the lives and wellbeing of many New Zealanders who mounted a lengthy campaign to preserve the site for future generations.

“It is only reasonable the community be allowed to reap the rewards of their labours as much as possible, tempered only by security requirements, in and around buildings. “

He says the proposed ‘open access policy’ recognises the high regard the local and wider community holds for the site and reflects a desire to preserve public access into and through the former hospital grounds, where practicable.

The draft management plan suggests the reserve open spaces could be used for organised activities such as open air concerts: community events (such as a Teddy Bears Picnic): one off or infrequent community markets: sports games: and ANZAC day ceremonies; but not the likes of motorcycle, car, or A&P shows.

Community groups would, however, need approval from the Hanmer Springs Community Board to host events; and while people would be encouraged, dogs and horses would be banned.

As well as preserving modern day access, Mayor Dalley says the draft plan also wants to see what it describes as ‘the rich tapestry of the history of people and events associated with the site’ appropriately recognised.

“A lot of things have happened here and a lot of people have been associated with or been touched by this site, whether in a tangible way through the buildings or landscaping or intangibly through their memories, but it is considered important any future uses and development respects these influences and values.”

Significant emphasis would be placed on retaining important names, for example, through the labelling of pathways, and using art works, signage and interpretation panels to ‘tell these stories’ to retain the history and spirit of the reserve.

The draft management plan also confirms the concept of “wellness” as the core driver of any future ‘commercial’ use of the site, but will be seeking feedback on whether this meets community expectations for how the land and buildings should be used.

Mayor Dalley believes it is a fitting concept given Queen Mary’s long history not only of the therapeutic treatment of physical ailments in the thermal waters but also with the balancing of mind body and spirit.

But he accepts there would need to be some flexibility in the interpretation ‘beyond simply healing and recuperation’ “though clearly the likes of a casino would not be deemed an appropriate use.”

In the context of the draft plan “wellness” would take in all elements of human life, including relationships with people and places, and social, cultural, spiritual and economic wellbeing.

Any business or community group obtaining a lease would be required to properly maintain the external heritage fabric of the buildings and spaces on the reserve in accordance with a Conservation Plan.

Any alterations would require resource consent.

The Draft Queen Mary Hospital Historic Reserve Management Plan also recognises the need to maximise synergies between the reserve and adjoining sites, particularly the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa Reserve, which has developed into a thermal and freshwater pools complex that attracts half a million visitors each year.

A draft management plan which recognises the Hanmer reserve’s significance from a local, regional, national and international perspective has also been adopted for consultation.

It suggests rules and guidelines for its continued management and development of the reserve for passive and active recreation while still maintaining its scenic, geothermal, landscape and historical attributes.

In particular it looks at future proofing the reserve to take into account the potential for development of and increased public usage of the Queen Mary Hospital Historic Reserve to allow for an appropriate interface between the two areas.

The community has two months to comment on both draft reserve management plans with submissions closing 5:00pm Friday 7th October, 2011.

The Queen Mary Hospital Historic Reserve Plan will ultimately be recommended to the

Department of Conservation for Ministerial approval.

For further information contact:

Lauren McKenzie

Communications Advisor

Hurunui District Council

P: 03 314 0024