CLEAR OUT PLEASE: James Mansfield helps to pack up stock at the Westfalen Nursery in Collingwood Park that has had to close down.
CLEAR OUT PLEASE: James Mansfield helps to pack up stock at the Westfalen Nursery in Collingwood Park that has had to close down. David Nielsen

Floods and soaring rent force Westfalen Nursery to close

THE soaring cost of rent and the backwash of the 2011 flood has forced another business to the wall.

After 13 years in operation, owners of the Westfalen Nursery in Collingwood Park closed the gates yesterday.

The nursery owner Nigel Saunders wanted to hold on, but was told to pack up and leave by the not-for-profit organisation Challenge Employment and Training, which leases out the block of land where the nursery is situated.

"There was no way we could afford stay open after they doubled our rent," he said.

"For 13 years I have been at this site, and we never had a problem paying the rent until about two years ago.

"The problems with the price of our rent started when Challenge Employment and Training got a new CEO and he upped the price dramatically.

"The rent was too much and we couldn't keep up. I tried pleading with them, asking them to help us, but they gave us the boot, and we now have to close up for good."

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After months of disagreements, Mr Saunders said he was given "only days" to pack up all of his machinery, tools and stock from the Dunlop St site.

"I think I worked about 48 hours straight without a sleep or a shower, just trying to salvage what I can," he said.

Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller told the QT that Challenge had been "unreasonable" in its actions. She was "flabbergasted" and disappointed" something like this could happen to a valuable member of the community.

"Nigel has been a big part of our community," Ms Miller said.

"He has been very generous to our schools and our community organisations when it came to providing plants and assistance."

Challenge Employment and Training CEO Richard Lindner said he had been contacted by Ms Miller regarding the issue and said Ms Miller's criticism was totally unjustified and based on poor information. Mr Lindner said the lease had been terminated for sound commercial reasons as it had been costing the organization for a number of years.

"As a not-for-profit community organization, Challenge has a duty to use its resources to serve the community" he said.

The facility would now be used for a new venture being instituted by Challenge - the Community Share Food project - which would involve growing food to help unemployed people and other disadvantaged people to better meet the high costs of living.

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