Property owner Paul Clark wants to quash a rumour.
He has not sold his dream investment property, the former Tuarangi Home, to a gang.
But it is still for sale, by negotiation.
Paul, 72, has owned the 4.125 hectare property on the outskirts of Ashburton for the past 27 years. He once had plans to subdivide it.
The imposing building was built around 1901 and Paul is the fourth owner; it was owned by the Moule/Twigger Trust, the North Canterbury Hospital Board and the Canterbury Hospital Board.
A time capsule removed from the site has been given to the Ashburton Museum.
In its heyday, Tuarangi (named from the Maori word for old) was the former home to thousands of men and women. The building was used as a men’s home (or infirmary) and then as a rest-home facility before it closed and moved to Cameron Street to a modern hospital with a specialised psychogeriatric care facility for the elderly.
The site has many outhouses and fronts Tuarangi Road, widening to the back of the property and along the northern edge of Braebrook subdivision.
Wakanui Stream, more commonly known as Mill Stream, runs through the property.
Paul says he bought it as an investment to subdivide for retirement and he had a personal connection to the property, through his grandfather Jim (also the name of Paul’s father).
Jim senior was a World War I veteran who was exposed to mustard gas in France; he called Tuarangi home for many years.
Paul’s plan to subdivide has been scuppered by the passing of time
Over the years, he has had genuine interest from individuals and organisations looking to buy, build or subdivide the site for various projects including a school, a church, a private residence and investment subdivision.
He has also had many time-wasters. They have all fallen through.
There are too many bureaucratic rules hindering development, he says. Even the cost of permits to clear the site and remove the rubble is significant.
What was a labour of love purchase, now involves just labour with ongoing site maintenance, lawns to mow and frequent repairs to vandalism; mostly from children, but enough to warrant a caretaker who lives on site.
There are also video cameras and good neighbourhood support around the property with people always looking out for each other.
Paul, a former car sales yard owner, initially ran the property as Tuarangi Backpackers, then as a boarding house. He lived on site. It still has a boarding house licence but Paul is a reluctant to become a landlord to many again.
As the building nears its 120th anniversary, Paul is no closer to selling the site, or subdividing it, than when he purchased it in 1993.