Education ministry in talks to buy houses in way of new college campus
JENNIFER EDER / Marlborough Express
Anita Davies, 98, loves her “English cottage” on Blenheim’s McLauchlan St, but was not suprised when the Ministry of Education came calling.
The Ministry of Education has started buying up houses – with one down and three to go – to make way for Marlborough’s new co-located college campus.
Anita Davies, 98, owns one of those houses clustered on McLauchlan St and says she is sad to leave her home of about 30 years, where she enjoys the chatter of children passing her well-established garden.
Hers is one of four houses between Marlborough Girls’ College and Bohally Intermediate School that will be affected by Tātoru o Wairau, a project to rebuild the boys’ and girls’ colleges side-by-side.
After discussion with Ministry of Education officials, Davies has agreed to sell her “little nest” to make way for the development.
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“I love this street, and I had hoped to spend the rest of my days here … But you can not fight against the Crown.”
Co-location was announced in 2015 as a solution for the colleges’ old and leaky buildings. As a greenfield site could not be found, the decision was made in 2018 to use the current site of the girls’ college and the intermediate on McLauchlan St.
The intermediate was to be rebuilt on the boys’ college site – which could include its sports field College Park, 300 meters down the road.
Davies said she understood they wanted the entire street-front of McLauchlan St clear so there was plenty of room for entranceways, drop-off lanes and car parks. “And if they landscape it properly it will be a fine thing.”
Her home on McLauchlan St bordered Fulton Creek, which separated the intermediate and the girls’ college. She hoped the natives she had planted by the creek would get to stay, she said.
“I have a kauri tree growing there that was given to me for my 80th birthday … I’ll be 99 next August.”
Davies said the two-bedroom house reminded her of an English cottage she once stayed in.
“When it was put up for sale I did not even come inside, I said ‘that’s for me’ … It’s homely, and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren can come and romp around.
“I have lovely neighbors and it’s handy to the park, handy to bowls or golf. Now I’ve got to give all that up. “
The ministry’s first visit in December had not come as a surprise, as Davies said she suspected they would be eyeing up her property when she read the McLauchlan St site was confirmed.
“I had hoped they would build in Alabama Rd or the racecourse, which they were talking about at one stage, that would have been better for me.”
She was now “in the throes” of moving to Christchurch, she said.
“I’ve lived in Blenheim since 1968, over half my life, and I’m well established here with doctors and the hospital, and all the amenities … and I’ve made some good friends here.
“Now I’ve got to establish all that where I’m going. But I do have relatives there, and I know they’ve got their own lives to live but it will save them the four-hour drive to see me. “
Davies’ neighbors, retired farmers Beverley and Hay Montgomery, had already sold their property to the ministry, but were still preparing to move out.
Their daughter Gail Bowler said her parents had been living at the property “about 40-odd years” so the idea of moving came as “a bit of a shock”.
“We had an inkling years ago it may be on the cards … there’s been talk of a new college for a long time.”
But the ministry had been good to deal with, “very approachable”, and was even helping the couple with the moving process, she said.
Bowler was also pleased with the price they reached. “It’s hard to know [what it’s worth] but we’re happy. And I’ve managed to secure a new home for my parents which is closer to me and my husband, so it worked out better than we could have thought. “
Helen Nickisson / Stuff
The name Te Tātoru o Wairau was formally gifted to the Marlborough schools relocation project by Te Tauihu Iwi during a ceremony at the Omaka Marae.
Ministry of infrastructure and digital leader Scott Evans said officials had been in discussion with four McLauchlan St property owners regarding the co-located colleges since February.
“Because of their location between the current Marlborough Girls’ College and Bohally Intermediate School campuses, they will be heavily impacted once demolition and construction begins on the combined campus,” Evans said.
“We are in regular contact with these residents and recently purchased one of the four properties through mutual agreement.”
He did not answer questions about whether compulsory acquisition was discussed with the residents, nor details about demolition. The Crown has the power to take land needed for public works under the Public Works Act, although the ministry said in 2017 it was not intending to use this mechanism for the colleges.
Master planning for the co-located campus was still underway, and a preferred site layout would be confirmed and shared with the community later this year, he said.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the Wairau community and we will continue to engage closely with local residents as we progress with the design and build of the three schools.”