Leases stress mounts

As the battle around the Waitara leasehold lands moves towards arbitration, the human costs are beginning to mount up.

Yesterday, a mandate was sought from the Waitara leaseholders for an independent valuation of the properties to be prepared, with a view to heading to arbitration with the New Plymouth District Council if there was a disparity between the two.

But it's the personal toll the ongoing issue is having which bubbled to the surface during yesterday's discussions.

Waitara's Lee Langl said she and her husband John purchased a leasehold property in Newbury Place in 2000 after selling their freehold home.

She said at the time they bought the house, they were reassured by council and lawyers that they would be able to go freehold but this has not happened.

The couple were now being asked to pay $4795 a year for their lease which Langl said was unfair.

"Enough is enough," she said.

Langl said a person's home was often their "safety net" in retirement and the increased lease demand impacted on their wider family. "When we are dead and gone, what is left is supposed to go to our children, but the council will probably take half of what's left," she said.

Another leaseholder, Gloria Williams, said she knew of people who had sought assistance to manage mental health issues such as anxiety and stress while others had been threatened with foreclosure.

She said she had no sympathy for the council in terms of the amount it had spent so far on legal fees.

Last month, the Daily News reported the council had spent $2.05 million on legal costs in relation to the Waitara endowment lands.

"If they had done what they promised to from the beginning and let us freehold our homes there would haven't been any of this," she said.

A series of speakers, including lawyer Dennis King, New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young and Green Party candidate Sarah Roberts, also took turns to speak at the meeting.

A motion to go ahead with the valuation and potential arbitration was supported by the audience and they were also asked to complete a form to signal what position they supported.

An initial payment of $100 from each leaseholder was also discussed as a way to fund the possible arbitration.

Meeting organiser Eric Williams said he was confident the wider group would support the move towards arbitration with the council, but was aware the financial cost was a factor.

"People are scared because we've got no money," he said.

Williams said he and wife Gloria had considered selling up themselves but were motivated to keep going by the numbers of people who called on him to help.

"We've got to follow it through, we started it," he said.

Williams said he should know by the end of the week how many of the leaseholders were committed to the arbitration process and how much money could be raised to contribute to the costs.

Letters: Page 8

Taranaki Daily News