Govt help called for as Waitara leases soar

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2013

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The Government has been called on to help Waitara residents struggling to cope with rising leases on their properties.

Some residential rents have increased tenfold from $400 to $4000, leaving many in despair at how they will pay.

Labour list MP Andrew Little has approached Social Development Minister Paula Bennett about financial assistance for those finding it tough.

Mr Little said central government could not avoid being involved as the lease properties were under offer to Te Atiawa as part of their Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

"There is still the overall systemic issue which is with the way the council is managing the leases and the valuation of the leases.

"Just about everybody is up for a significant financial shock and I want to find out whether that can be ameliorated through a better process," he said.

The Waitara Community Board is also worried about that financial impact and is keen to build a taskforce to save the town's elderly from poverty in the face of the hiked lease land rent rates.

The taskforce would include one member each from the New Plymouth District Council, Te Atiawa Authority, central government and the Taranaki Regional Council, said board member and leaseholder Bill Simpson.

"We want council to reassess the way it values properties. We believe we can come up with a solution that is amicable for everyone," he said.

New Plymouth District Council is the landlord of 760 lease land residential properties in the town. It also administers 45 commercial and 21 industrial leases in Waitara.

Mr Simpson said recent ground rent increases for residential, commercial and industrial leases were unaffordable and could force elderly residents and young families out of their homes, and businesses out of the town.

The appeal for a solution comes as leaseholders prepare to march on council this Friday in protest at the rent hikes.

The average residential ground rent of council-administered properties is $1177 but goes as high as $5570. On average commercial and industrial ground rents are $1830, with a high of $10,965.

The average renewed annual rental for Waitara residential leases is currently around $3000. Of the residential leases, 69 are up for renewal within the next two years.

Wikitoria Keenan of the Te Atiawa Iwi Authority declined to comment on the taskforce idea and the authority's potential involvement in it as the matter of the lease lands was still under negotiation.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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