Guides fight to save Oratia camp

By Tess Nichol

TRADITION: A group of Girl Guides are against the sale of Otimai camp.
TRADITION: A group of Girl Guides are against the sale of Otimai camp.

A faction of GirlGuiding NZ desperate to save its historic 3.145ha Oratia camp from being sold is asking Auckland Council for heritage protection.

NZME has been told at least six movement veterans in the Auckland area have resigned since the stoush over Otimai Lodge began in January.

Now, a group calling themselves Friends of Otimai have filed an urgent application to Auckland Council for heritage protection for the site.

"Otimai is our turangawaewae - the precious place where Guides are at home, and from where they draw strength to go back out into the world," said the group's spokeswoman, Alison Hucke.

"We are seeking heritage protection against the threat posed by the property's imminent sale on the open market."

Friends of Otimai describe the process as being untrue to the values that Guiding stands for and claim losing the Otimai camp, in West Auckland, could rob young members of valuable life experiences.

But GirlGuiding NZ says the land has to be sold to help secure the movement's future.

Ashes of old girls as well as their relatives are scattered at the site, and there are fears these could be disturbed.

"We are concerned that there is no requirement for the purchaser to have any regard for the cultural, spiritual or historical significance of the site," said Hucke.

The small but vocal group against the sale of Otimai believed the board valued money more than history and tradition, and had made up their minds to sell long before officially announcing it - something the organisation's chief executive strongly denied when NZME spoke to her in August.

Maintenance issues and financial viability were brought into question after the property was found to be running at a loss of nearly $200,000 between 2009 and 2015.

GirlGuiding NZ boss Susan Coleman said a loss of that size was simply not sustainable for a charitable organisation.


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