Two Hurunui plunket groups are fighting to “future proof” the ownership of their plunket rooms.
Culverden and Waiau want their buildings, which were built by their communities on land gifted by local families, returned to local ownership.
They say their buildings have been signed over to the Canterbury branch in May last year without any consultation and are destined to become “nationalised” along with other Plunket rooms in June this year.
The they are worried they could be “sold out from under our feet”.
Jess Davison, a plunket volunteer, Renee Dampier-Crossley, the Waiau president and Culverden president Brona Youngman, are worried the buildings could then be “sold out from under our feet” and are determined to see them returned to the community.
They say the local plunket groups have historically paid the rates, insurance and maintained them and that Canterbury Plunket, “without any consultation” with the people of Hurunui, has signed the buildings over to the national Plunket Society.
While it is legal for Canterbury to have done this, morally the plunket groups believe they should have been consulted and given an opportunity to have a say in the future of the buildings, which have proved valuable assets during recovery from last November’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
They have called a community meeting on March 7, at 7pm in the Culverden Community Hall at the Amuri Area School and say with the communities “input and support we might be able to have them gifted back to the community”.
“Many are upset about the situation and that they have gone behind our backs. We have been to a lawyer and found some documents that confirm it. It is really sad they have done it without talking to us,” says Jess.
“Our worry is the national body, which has no understanding of what it is like to be a rural mum living in the Culverden and Waiau areas, could sell the buildings from under our feet,” she says.
Meanwhile, Canterbury Plunket met with the local groups on Wednesday this week to discuss the situation, but the trio representing the two plunket groups said the meeting, which was held after the North Canterbury News went to print, would change little, unless a sale and purchase agreement was agreed to at a local level.
Support has been growing for their cause with the Hurunui District Council’s local community committee rallying behind the group.
Mayor Winton Dalley says while the transfer of ownership of the buildings is legal, “they didn’t have a moral” right to do it.
He says a similar situation had existed with the Hurunui and Waiau Scout Dens and the council was able to negotiate a settlement with the national body and they had now become part of a park and were maintained by the local community for community use.
The ownership of the Plunket buildings was held by the Hurunui branch of the New Zealand Plunket Society which after 105 years, was disbanded in November 2012 and its affairs centralised in Christchurch.
While the sub branches remained up and running as volunteer groups under the guiding hand of an area manager in Christchurch, it appears the fate of the buildings may have come under the spotlight then.
“They were owned by the community, built by the community which fund raised for them and the land was gifted by families in our community,” says Jess. “We are really upset at how it has happened.”