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Legal disputes plague Hum Salon

ASHTEN MACDONALD
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2014
Rosy Armitage
SOCIAL ENTERPRISE: Rosy Armitage outside the Grafton villa in February 2013. The building is now at the centre of a dispute between the tenants and the owner.

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Remember Rosy Armitage and her social enterprise Hum Salon?

She featured in the Auckland City Harbour News in March 2013. The idea was to use people power to renovate an old villa and create enterprises there such as a coffee shack, restaurant and bar that were all about the community rather than financial gain.

But the community project to restore the heritage building in Grafton is at the centre of a year-long legal battle working its way through the High Court.

The occupants are being accused of breaching their tenancy agreement, which requires them to carry out renovations on the house in exchange for a rent holiday.

The owner wants them removed.

However the tenant, Hum Hospitality Ltd, says it cannot comply with the agreement because of a dispute over the repiling of the property that was done in 2009 before the lease was signed.

In 2011 Hum Hospitality took out a long-term lease on the property on the corner of Grafton Bridge and Grafton Rd, and began renovating as part of a community project to restore the villa.

An application for building consent to repile and level the dwelling was submitted by the owner, Shen Ooi, and the work was completed in 2009.

However Armitage says the repiling work is "sub-standard". She became concerned when cracks began to appear in the restoration work carried out by Hum.

She and other volunteers planned to develop the category two heritage site as a site for music, arts and education but court battles have halted the project.

"We want to continue with our development, remedy the repiling and relevelling and want compensation for the damage that has been done to our work so we can correct it," she says.

Hum operates a cafe on the Grafton site to generate income for the restoration project, along with donations and sponsorship.

She has turned down offers of settlement from Ooi, saying "we're not in it for the money".

Armitage says their situation is a national issue because heritage buildings all over New Zealand are being left to rot.

"This is a heritage site on a major intersection. This is supposed to be valued by the community. We're walking by and letting it erode.

"We want the property in the hands of the community for the life of the house so that it's never demolished. This is a tactical attempt by the landlord to frustrate the progress of the project," she says.

Shen Ooi could not be reached for a response.

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