Couple to fight marae eviction

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 07:56 16/04/2014
Ina and Doug Cunniffe.

Omaka Marae residents Ina and Doug Cunniffe.

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The Omaka Marae Committee has broken its silence on a decision to evict two kaumatua who have lived on the marae for 16 years.

The committee has offered to meet with Doug and Ina Cunniffe after the elderly couple publicly spoke to the Express of their shock at the eviction.

The Cunniffe's were given 90 days' notice to vacate their kaumatua flat by June 19. They considered the flat their retirement home.

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

The Omaka Marae Committee, who approved the eviction, had refused to provide them with a reason for the eviction.

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

After drawing criticism on social media for the way they handled the eviction, the committee said in a statement they would not discuss the eviction but agreed to meet with the Cunniffes.

The committee said it had engaged a property manager to manage the flats "more efficiently".

"The Omaka Marae Committee cannot comment on this matter specifically as it is a tenancy matter," the statement read.

"The Omaka Marae Committee intends to meet with the Cunniffes and has asked the property manager to assist them to find suitable alternative housing. The Omaka Marae Committee makes decisions with the best interests of the marae in mind and does so respecting the privacy and mana of all concerned."

An online petition backing the Cunniffes had been supported by 385 people.

Doug Cunniffe said he would fight the eviction at the meeting.

"It has taken them a long time to work out that they should meet with us. The committee should have done this before the tenancy notice was issued."

Cunniffe would be asking the committee hard questions, he said.

"We want to know why we are getting thrown out. We are not happy about the way the committee has handled it. A lot of people are fighting for this. We are going to fight the eviction all the way."

Labour's associate spokesman for Maori Affairs Rino Tirikatene is organising a public meeting to thrash out the eviction issue.

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- The Marlborough Express

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