Tahuna Holiday Park tenant evicted after 7 years: 'My rights have been taken off me'
For seven years, Jeffrey Whittingham has made an old bus at Tahuna Beach Holiday Park his home.
It's the life he chose. It's affordable and mostly sustainable. Everything but for a television runs on solar power and he has a raised vegetable garden outside.
But on Tuesday, Whittingham has to leave. He has been evicted from the holiday park and threatened with a trespass notice if he doesn't comply.
The 51-year-old sickness beneficiary claims he has been unfairly targeted and "bullied" by holiday park management.
Holiday park manager Marcel Fekkes says Whittingham has a "disregard for safety" and that comes at a price.
The issue boils down to electrical compliance.
The holiday park conducted an electrical audit of long-term residents in February to check that they were complying with the latest regulations.
This came after a motorhome caught fire because of an electrical fault.
Whittingham was told that his bus was non-compliant and, on April 11, his power was pulled.
He said he was notified of this with a sticky note left on his bus.
He contacted an electrician who told him that his current power set-up would be fine until it was made compliant, which wouldn't be for several weeks.
In the meantime, Whittingham plugged his power back in.
According to documents, he was given until May 10 to become compliant.
His bus was certified by an electrician on May 3 and checked again on May 5.
He was given an eviction notice on May 8. He was told the reason was because he had plugged his power back in before becoming compliant.
Whittingham said he has always been a "happy-go-lucky" person.
"All of a sudden I just felt like I had nothing, I'm not worth anything and depression was starting to set in. Everybody could see it in me because it's not who I am."
He has been to lawyers, the office of Nelson MP Nick Smith and Consumer Protection, but no one has offered any help.
"I didn't have a leg to stand on. My rights have just been taken off me."
Fekkes said the eviction was "solely" because Whittingham had plugged his power back in after being told not to.
"He's had disregard for safety for himself and people around him as well as my staff," he said.
"We take safety into high regard here, as we must, because we're liable."
Fekkes said he felt that the situation with Whittingham had been handled appropriately and wasn't willing to reconsider the eviction.
Whittingham said he had been a good tenant who took care of his site and paid rent on time.
He felt that he had been singled out and "bullied" by Fekkes.
He has been looking for a new place to park his bus, but it would mean leaving a community and lifestyle he had come to love.
"It's a great spot because I've been there seven years, I've got some really good friends and neighbours and things. We all help each other.
"Being on the benefit you can't afford much. At least this way I've got one or two dollars at the end of my day in my pocket."
He said he has "broken back-itis" following a motorcycle accident as a 16-year-old, which has got worse over time and prevents him from working.
Voice Nelson housing spokeswoman Mary Ellen O'Connor said that Whittingham's contract stated that he has a license to occupy, but he should be considered a long-term tenant after seven years.
She said the eviction highlighted the lack of affordable accommodation options for vulnerable people in Nelson, particularly after the holiday park closed its emergency housing last year.
"They need to actually connect with Nelson and what an unaffordable place it is becoming and how few options there are.
"There's been an abdication of any kind of social responsibility among managers. Managers have got an agenda which will generally be about getting more money and getting what they see as the best bang for their buck in the park."
Fekkes said it was "ridiculous" to suggest that the eviction was about anything other than Whittingham's non-compliance.
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