A breakdown in communication has scuttled plans for an eagerly awaited Muslim community centre in Blenheim.
New Zealand Islamic Development Trust (NZIDT) bought land on Budge St for a purpose-built centre.
But the Trust says they will give the land away for free as they have “heard nothing” from the Blenheim Muslim Association.
Trust chief executive Taoufik Elidrissi says the site was cleared ready for construction.
“The site is still to be gifted to the community of Blenheim,” he says.
“That was always our intention from day one.
“My partner and I are prepared to offer the property free of charge to create a Muslim community centre, to assist the wider Muslim community.”
But Taoufik says they were not prepared to work with the man who helped get the project off the ground – Zayd Ian Blisset.
He says there has been no communication between the trust and the association since August last year.
The former site of On The Spot dairy was purchased by the Auckland-based trust in 2016 for $170,000.
However, the project stalled when WorkSafe opened an inquiry into the unsafe removal of asbestos during the demolition of the old dairy.
Charges against NZIDT were withdrawn in 2018 with WorkSafe finding Marlborough construction company Crafar Crouch, who performed the demolition, at fault.
Lawyers’ fees and demolition works wracked costs up to $250,000 in total, says Taoufik.
But it was the discovery that Zayd has tried to shift the blame to the Trust that spelled the end of the relationship, says Taoufik.
“He made a statement against us to Worksafe. We’ll wait until there’s a change of leadership and then we’ll move in.
“We didn’t know about the contamination; we were just trying to help the community,” he says
Muslim Association of Marlborough president Zayd Blissett says it was a “marvellous offer, but so far, nothing’s eventuated.”
“We’ve not heard from those people since last August … we’re going in another direction.
“We need to be in town for security and convenience, as far as we’re concerned, our community, we’re in limbo when it comes to the centre,” he says.
Zayd denies making a statement against NZIDT to WorkSafe.
He says original discussions saw the trust say they would provide everything, from the demolition and the build to providing an imam.
But he says they went back on their word.
“The only thing that we’ve got there is a container with some stuff in it.
“Our problem, and our fault and I’ve learnt my lesson is to get things in writing.
“It was all told us verbally and I have no proof. It’s sad in a way. We were all excited, we had been working toward having a place of our own.
“I get phone calls from people at least once a week wanting to know where they can pray,” he says.