The newly renovated Gilbert Lodge, which has been used by local scouts for more than three decades, is facing financial ruin after funding fell through leading to it owing $40,000 to a local building company.

The renovations of the lodge, situated up the Wairoa Valley at the back of Brightwater, have led to a cost blow-out, putting the future of the lodge in the balance.

Now, the volunteers that run it are reaching out to the community for donations to keep Gilbert Lodge open for future scouting generations.

“I have seen many hundreds of children and adults experience Gilbert Lodge,” says Pete de Jong, secretary of Friends of Gilbert Lodge. “It’s a terrific resource for the Nelson-Tasman region. It allows children from 5 to 18 to experience the outdoors, interact with their peers and gain the confidence to reach their full potential.”

The lodge was once a shearing shed until the farm was closed down in the 1960s and the land transferred to the Department of Conservation. After being used by the Nelson Girls Brigade, the Nelson Nayland Avion Scout Group took it over and began transforming the site from a shed into a camping facility. With over 40 years of use and little maintenance, the Gilbert Lodge became run down. By the mid-2000s, it was no longer in a safe and useable condition. Demolition was considered as it was thought to be too dilapidated to save.

The lodge’s saving grace came in the form of a group of ex-Scout leaders and parents who banded together to establish the volunteer-run Friends of Gilbert Lodge in 2005.

“We’ve had incredible support from many organisations over the past decade. This funding has allowed the lodge to be brought up to standard and many new features added, enriching the experience for hundreds of young people,” says Pete.
It was the recent veranda work where the financial problems began. Partly funded by a trust, an expected funding stream did not eventuate, which has meant a shortfall of money coming in to cover all the costs. The result is that the volunteers from Friends of Gilbert Lodge now owe $40,000 to a local Nelson building company.

“Over this past year we have exhausted all our options, but unless the money can be sourced, we may be required to sell Gilbert Lodge to another organisation. It would be a significant loss to the Nelson Tasman region if it is sold, not to mention a hugely disappointing end to 14 years of work,” says Pete.

A decision is expected to be made in late October and Friends of Gilbert Lodge have given themselves until then to find the necessary funds.

A Givealittle.com fundraiser has been set up to raise the $40,000 needed to pay the building company.

“We’re hoping this fundraiser will appeal to the network of ex-scouts who experienced Gilbert Lodge, as well as anyone who values having facilities like this for young people in the region. We’re appealing to the local community to generously donate to help keep Gilbert Lodge open for future Scouts,” says Pete.

Businesses interested in contributing to saving Gilbert Lodge can contact Pete de Jong through pete.dejong@xtra.co.nz or 021-790775.

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