Village group pushes to drop courtesy van

NAOMI ARNOLD
Last updated 13:00 25/06/2012

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Residents of Waimea Village are demanding their management dump their courtesy bus to save money as a long-running levy dispute continues.

The committee represents about 300 people who live in 171 leasehold units in the village.

The communal van to Richmond has run for more than 20 years, but its cost has become a bugbear for the committee as it protests against an increase in the monthly levy.

It will see the lessees paying $284 a month, an increase from $125. A Wellington arbiter is considering the issue.

Residents' committee chairman Jerry Rowland said there had been no objection to the service in 20 years until the village owners sold the old van and leased a new one at an annual cost of $14,192, $1.60 per leaseholder a week.

The committee had surveyed the residents and the vast majority requested that the van lease be cancelled to reduce their monthly levy cost, Mr Rowland said.

A private taxi company had offered the same twice-weekly service for $2 a person per round trip, or $1 with an Age Concern voucher, he said.

"It's totally unfair that [most of the residents] are subsidising a van for a very small number of people and they felt [the van users] should have a contribution towards the use of the service" he said.

"But it's a small fraction of the overall issue that the lessees are facing."

Resident Christine Palmer said the bus, which co-owner Michael Wright drove, was an essential service for the residents who used it, who were mostly aged 80-plus.

Most of the committee members had their own cars and she felt they did not represent the views of many people in the village.

Another resident, who did not want to be named because she feared bullying, said she couldn't go shopping or to the doctor's without the service, and she didn't trust taxi services.

The van had until recently been used for other communal trips around the region, though these had largely stopped since the levy dispute.

"It's the principle of it," the resident said.

"Why should we not get to use our perfectly good bus? It's a marvellous service, and that's the reason I came in here. Why should just a handful of people try to tell us what to do? We're being bullied."

Mr Wright said between 12 and 20 people a week used the service. The previous bus was 21 years old and the most economical option for replacement had been to lease one, with a view to buying it at the end.

"I'll do everything I can to make sure the service stays within the village because it's a necessary part of it," he said.

"It's there for everyone to use if they choose. If the arbiter decided he wasn't going to include the bus service in the running cost of the village we may have to look at it again, but I would be reluctant to stop the bus service purely and simply because so many people have bought [into] the village on the understanding it's part of the village lifestyle."

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The bus service wasn't in the lease agreement, but neither were the security cameras, the hall, the green waste collection, or the free garden bark, all of which made the village an attractive place to live, he said.

- The Nelson Mail

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