Canterbury District Health Board received inadequate advice about historic place
District Health Board’s decision to sell land around disused hospital in Hanmer Springs—requirements for consultation discussed—requirement for keeping open mind referred to—an inadequate summary of submissions provided to Board—Department of Conservation asked to reassess site
In May 2003 the Canterbury District Health Board declared the former Queen Mary Hospital surplus to requirements. The site comprised several unique heritage buildings, and also historic trees and formal gardens. Returned soldiers were hospitalised there after Gallipoli and France in the First World War. It forms 15 hectares and is the only significant green space in Hanmer. Opposition to sale of the property arose.
Sale on the open market was imminent and when a complaint was made to the Ombudsman an urgent investigation was undertaken. It was found that the Board had decided to sell the hospital based on the fact that it had received a ‘clearance’ from the Department of Conservation to do so. (The Department had determined that the land had ‘no natural values’). However, that assessment fell short of what the Act required the Department to consider, as the Department’s functions also include the conservation of ‘historic resources’ as well as ‘natural resources’. As the Department should have considered the site in terms of its conservation as an historic resource, and landscape, and as it had failed to do that it agreed to re-evaluate the site. However, at the time the Department proposed to expend no money on a purchase.
The Ombudsman drew the matter of the heritage protection required to the attention of the then Prime Minister in her role as the Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage. Discussions ensued with the Ombudsman being advised of progress. Negotiations followed between the Canterbury District Health Board, the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage, the Department of Conservation, the Hurunui District Council, and Ngai Tahu with first option on the site. The final outcome was that on 17 October 2008 the government was able to announce that the major portion of the historic building and landscape had been purchased from the Board, and is now conserved.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.