By Don Farmer

A large chunk of Solway Showgrounds in Masterton has been sold to a developer, and is thought to be earmarked for new housing.

Greytown man Steve Pilbrow has bought the block at the back of the showgrounds known as the plateau, and which is directly opposite Breadcraft, having recently sold The Hub, a retail complex his company developed in Greytown.

Although the price has not been confirmed it is believed Mr Pilbrow paid a six-figure sum in the upper bracket for the block, having negotiated a deal with Masterton A&P Association.

The 7.4ha land sale will free up money for the show association which recorded a loss of nearly $100,000 over its entire operation in the year ending May 31, which included farm income, rentals, donations, grants and members subscriptions, and a show day loss of $28,309.

Mr Pilbrow said yesterday it was “a bit premature” to talk about his plans for the land as no consent documents had yet been lodged with Masterton District Council.

But he confirmed The Hub had been sold within three weeks to a Wellington-based buyer who has owned a weekender in Greytown for many years.

When the opportunity arose to buy the showgrounds land he had sat down with show association officials and agreed on a deal.

Mr Pilbrow said he would be willing to tell more about what use the land would be put to once things progressed further.

Masterton A&P Association chairman Peter McWilliam said the land sale would strengthen his organisation, which is developing a strategic plan for the showgrounds aimed at “invigorating and modernising public events”, and increasing the use of the showgrounds.

The block that has been sold was sometimes grazed and was mostly used for equestrian events

It was also used by harriers and for cross country running by schools.

An area of bush immediately at the back of the grandstand was not involved in the sale and is protected under a QE2 covenant.

Mr McWilliam said the decision to sell the land that borders Ngaumutawa Rd was not taken lightly but the board was confident the decision was the right one to secure one of Wairarapa’s “most picturesque and much loved assets and provide a sound foundation for the future”.

Emphasis would be put on growing the association’s agricultural and pastoral focus and developing opportunities for the under-utilised showgrounds.

“We will be looking to develop opportunities for it to be used more often.

“Solway is arguably one of the most beautiful showgrounds in the country and the association is keen to offer the public a greater opportunity to use and enjoy it,” he said.

Next year the show will celebrate its 130th birthday and show-day is to be held on the same date as Wings Over Wairarapa.

“We are working with Wings Over Wairarapa organisers to maximise the benefit of having increased visitors that weekend,” Mr McWilliam said.