Couple evicted from marae

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 16:00 10/04/2014
Ina and Doug Cunniffe.

Omaka Marae residents Ina and Doug Cunniffe.

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Two kaumatua living at Omaka Marae are in shock after being told they are being evicted from their home of 16 years.

Doug and Ina Cunniffe were given 90 days notice to vacate by June 19 the kaumatua flat they had considered their retirement home.

The couple said they were in disbelief when they received a tenancy termination notice from letting agent Bayleys on March 17.

Doug Cunniffe said the Omaka Marae Committee, who approved the eviction, have refused to provide them with a reason.

When approached by the Express, the marae committee also said it would not provide a reason for the eviction.

Doug Cunniffe, is 81 and in remission from prostate cancer and his wife Ina Cunniffe, 74, has a lung condition, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Doug Cunniffe said despite requests to the committee for an explanation they refused to talk.

"They have given us no explanation. That is against Maori protocol. We have never missed a payment, we have never been loud or had parties. If we had been bad tenants I would say they had a reason but we have been anything but.

"We had set it up as our retirement home. I don't want to shift into town or have to go to Picton. I don't like being boxed in. This is our home, we don't want to leave."

Ina Cunniffe said when they came to live on the marae 16 years ago it strengthened her cultural roots.

Their daughter Diane Goulding said it was no way to treat elders.

"It is disrespectful. They are picking on kaumatua because they can't stand up for themselves."

Goulding said her parents had a strong emotional attachment to the marae. They had helped raise their six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren in the flat and built a strong friendship with a neighbouring kaumatua.

"My kids spent most of their lives there. They were just as shocked when I told them. As another generation comes through we thought they would go out there and be part of the family heritage." The Cunniffes invested in the home for their retirement, the range and heat pump they installed will have to be taken out and re-installed in their new home, estimated to cost $3000.

The three beloved cats they adopted will have to be left behind. Forty seven kaumatua in Marlborough have signed a petition in support of the Cunniffes and opposing the eviction.

Doug Cunniffe said he wanted to meet with the committee to discuss a way forward.

"I don't know where we would go. I am hopeful we can get the eviction overturned," he said.

The Omaka Marae Committee said in a statement: "This is a tenancy matter and the Omaka Marae Committee do not want to comment."

Bayleys, who is the letting agent for the flat, said they could not comment on the eviction "because of privacy issues".

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- The Marlborough Express

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