26 Nov 2015

Fate of holiday park in the pipeline

6:29 pm on 26 November 2015

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel has expressed sympathy for the leasees of a council-owned camping ground who are fighting to keep it open.

The South Brighton Holiday Park and its 20 permanent residents were threatened with closure in 2013 by a cash-strapped council unwilling to pay to repair its two ablution blocks.

It has remained open but, with its lease up for renewal, the council was proposing inviting offers from anybody else interested in running it as a camping ground or something similar.

Today, Ms Dalziel asked council staff to see if an exception could be made for the leasees that would save them from having to compete with others in order to renew their lease.

"These people have kept the place going and have offered security to people who are out of their homes for earthquake repairs, for people who live there permanently. I mean, I'm sorry, but this is news to me that we had to go out to another process."

One half of the couple that holds the current lease, Dom Brownin, said the repairs they've been waiting on for five years could be done quickly and for a fraction of the cost quoted by the council.

"If you go by the council figures, nobody will ever come near this place," he said.

"They're saying $3.4 million to repair the camp. That's just ridiculous.

"The camp doesn't have to exist in the way that it always has. You would have to do something with the house, but we believe that the house is repairable."

Mr Brownin said it was frustrating it had taken this long for the council to make a decision and that in the meantime business had suffered.

Damaged ablution blocks at Christchurch's South Brighton Holiday Park.

Damaged ablution blocks at Christchurch's South Brighton Holiday Park. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

"The camping ground regulations state that you need to be within 100 metres of a toilet, so it's difficult for us to use the other end of the camp.

"We lost a... complex of five cabins and we have settled with our insurance company on that but without having any future for the camp, we've not been able to invest that money."

Mr Brownin's partner Lyn Pilling said it was difficult explaining to their guests why it was taking so long to repair their earthquake damaged buildings.

"We get tourists from all around the world and the tourists from Peru, they've actually got in their legislation that all insurance claims need to be settled within 12 months, so from their point of view they just can't understand the situation," she said.

South Brighton Holiday Park camper Ngaire Fyffe.

South Brighton Holiday Park camper Ngaire Fyffe. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Ngaire Fyffe has been living at the camping ground with her husband for the past 11 years and said it was frustrating not knowing whether they would be able to continue to calling it home in the future.

"I know the council have a thousand and one things to do that are more important, but this could have been solved so quickly and easily," she said.

"There's been a lot of misinformation go backwards and forwards."

South Brighton Holiday Park camper Vesta Boswell.

South Brighton Holiday Park camper Vesta Boswell. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Vesta Boswell has called the motorcamp home for six years and hopes to stay there for the remainder of her retirement.

She said the leaseholders had been treated unfairly by the council.

"Having worked in business, I am appalled that a council could treat another business owner the way they have," she said.

"They're not getting the full potential of the camp because the council are not doing what they need to do."

South Brighton Holiday Park camper Lynette Wiggins.

South Brighton Holiday Park camper Lynette Wiggins. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Another long-term resident, Lynette Wiggins, managed to collect close to 7000 signatures asking to keep the camping ground open and said after 50 years in operation, it deserved a second chance.

"While we were out there doing the petition, I would say at least one in every third person would say, 'oh, I remember when...', and everybody had a recollection of time here as a kid growing up," she said.

"So it is an icon and it would be sad for Christchurch to lose it."

Ms Dalziel has given staff two weeks to see if there was a way Mr Brownin and Ms Pilling's lease can be renewed.

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