Fortnightly talks are taking place with the Ministry of Education in efforts to speed up the sale of Wanaka’s old swimming pool site so it can be replaced with a gymnasium, Queenstown Lakes District Council property manager Peter Hansby has revealed.

The Wanaka Community Board last week cleared the first hurdle in Mount Aspiring College’s bid to build the gymnasium by agreeing to recommend reserve status be revoked and the land be sold to the ministry.

The council closed the old pool when it built the Wanaka Aquatic Centre at Three Parks in 2018.

The council will consider the land transfer on December 15. There will be public consultation before a final decision is made.

The Government’s $46million college redevelopment project is due to be completed by the end of next year.

In August, college board of trustees chairman Ian Hall and senior school leaders told Education Minister Chris Hipkins they wanted to expand the project to include a gymnasium and recreation centre on the old pool site next door to the school.

Speaking at a board forum last week, Dr Hall said “timing is of the essence”.

If land status was resolved within the next 12 months, Naylor Love could retain its workforce on site and begin the new gymnasium contract, he said.

The college is the largest high school in Otago and has more than 1200 pupils.

The redevelopment will cater for 1800 pupils.

New gymnasium and recreation facilities were especially important to the college, which had outstanding programmes in sport, recreation and outdoor pursuits, Dr Hall said.

It would be available for community use too, he said.

“There is money available from funds from the Ministry of Education .. and the ideal spot for the new gymnasium and recreation facilities would obviously be the swimming pool site, which is immediately adjacent to our existing, albeit woefully inadequate, gymnasium,” Dr Hall said.

All board members were supportive.

Ed Taylor said the Wanaka Recreation Centre was under pressure for court time, so the sooner it was done the better and it was up to the council and the ministry to come up with a good price.

Mr Hansby confirmed proceeds would go to the Wanaka Reserves Fund.

He also confirmed officials were working well together “to expedite the transfer”.

The council does not have a budget to demolish the old pool.

Mr Hansby said that would be part of the valuation discussion with the ministry.

He expected the building contractor would demolish the building.

Ngai Tahu had been advised about a possible transfer and asked if it had a claim.

It was believed Ngai Tahu did not have a claim, but it was a courtesy to ask, Mr Hansby said.