Couple relieved to farewell Omaka

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 09:02 30/07/2014
viticulture
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ
NEW HOME: Doug and Ina Cunniffe have moved into a new home after being asked to vacate their flat of 16 years on Omaka Marae.

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An elderly couple ordered to leave their Omaka Marae home of 16 years say it is a relief to have left the marae.

Doug and Ina Cunniffe yesterday spent their last day in the kaumatua flat, which has been at the centre of a wrangle between the couple and Omaka Marae committee.

The couple have moved into a Housing New Zealand property in Blenheim following a three-month fight to stay in the flat they considered their retirement home.

A tenancy tribunal notice was served on the couple stating estate agent Bayleys, Omaka Marae manager Kiley Nepia and Omaka Marae committee chairwoman Margaret Bond were taking possession of the flat yesterday.

Doug Cunniffe said they would not fight the decision in the courts and handed over keys to the flat.

In March, the Cunniffes were served with a 90-day notice to vacate the flat without reason. Their fight to stay in their home culminated in a peaceful protest during which some of the founding members of the marae opposed the eviction.

Marae manager Kiley Nepia defended the decision, claiming Doug Cunniffe had interfered in marae business.

Doug Cunniffe said he had no regrets about fighting the tenancy termination.

"It is a relief to be gone," he said.

The couple had to stump up thousands of dollars to remove the heat pump and range they had installed, get the holes replastered and pay for furniture for their new home.

Cunniffe said the new home felt very different. "I feel a bit boxed in. We don't have the open spaces we enjoyed on the marae. I will have to get used to town living."

A watchdog working under the Department of Internal Affairs is continuing with an unrelated investigation into Omaka Marae.

The Charities Services monitors charities and processes their annual returns. A Department of Internal Affairs spokeswoman would not comment on the nature of the investigation.

The Charities Services started its investigation in 2011 and said the marae committee had been working constructively with them.

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- The Marlborough Express

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