Group says $20,000 will help save Hastings railway station

By Lawrence Gullery

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A Hastings community group believes it is all that stands in the way of the Hastings railway station from being demolished by its owner KiwiRail.

The Sustaining Hawke's Bay Trust plans to move its Environment Centre on Russell St to the former railway station a few 100 metres away on Sir James Wattie Place.

The trust's has applied to Hastings District Council's contestable community grants fund for $20,000 towards turning the Environment Centre into a hub for its education and community initiatives.

The trust's co-chairman and treasurer Craig France presented the idea to the council's community grants committee yesterday which is considering the funding applications. He said the train station would be the ideal place for it to develop the hub.

"KiwiRail is keen to lease it out but it operates on a commercial model and isn't interested in a charitable one. The possibility is that the building will be bowled, KiwiRail has already threatened us with that.

"We are confident we can make the move. We've done the budget and I think there will be a risk involved no doubt but we have to keep the doors open."

Committee chairman Wayne Bradshaw asked what the trust would do if it only got some of the $20,000 it had requested in the grant.

"I think the move to the railway station will give us a magnificent story to tell," Mr France said.

"We believe we will be able to leverage more funding, even if it's commercial, but we are not in a position to achieve that where we are now."

Mr France said the trust was operating on a tight budget and finding the money to pay for basic costs such as electricity was tough.

Committee member Rod Heaps said he was surprised the trust's application showed a low number of people coming into the Environment Centre or calling for advice.

Mr France said the trust had been active, sometimes working with the council on waste minimisation initiatives.

It was running worm farm and composting programmes in the community but would like to embark on other initiatives such as film evenings and anti-litter campaign, all of which could be achieved at the proposed railway station site.

The railway station opened 50 years ago on Caroline Rd (now Sir James Wattie Place) on July 9, 1962. It has not been used for many years with the cancellation of passenger services.

KiwiRail said it had offered to put capital into the building and it was currently negotiating a lease with the Hastings District Council. It could not say what would happen to the building if the lease agreement was not made.

The council will confirm the successful funding applicants at a meeting on March 26.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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