Mob stops traffic on march to council

''You ain't seen nothing yet''

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 14:40 20/12/2013
DAILY NEWS ONLINE

Waitara leaseholders march in New Plymouth

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Waitara leaseholders are promising a campaign of civil disobedience if there is no move to reduce a massive leap in leases.

But the New Plymouth District Council's response continues to be that their hands are tied until Treaty decisions are made in the new year.

At midday today more than 50 people, some in wheelchairs and some with young children, shouted slogans as they marched along the city's one-way system intent on taking their complaints to the door of the New Plymouth District Council.

But they were lucky to make it in one piece.

The  protesters, who took over both lanes of Vivian St, were put at risk when there was an outbreak of roadrage among some of motorists trying to force their way past.

A few drove up on the footpath to get around them while others swore at the group out of their windows.
There was no sign of police.

Marchers carried placards saying ''We've had enough'' and ''leases cripple''.

The responded to the call: ''Are we going to pay our leases? with a resounding:  ''No.''
''Are we going to have a good Christmas?
''No.'' 

Waitara leaseholder and spokesman for the group Eric Williams said the protest was just the tip of the iceberg.

Ongoing civil action, such as disrupting the international cricket matches at Pukekura Park were planned, he said.

They were aware of two attempted suicides as a direct result of the lease increases, he said.

Another elderly man who could not afford the increase was threatening to torch his house.

Only two years ago the leases were about $2000 a year, the same as rates, but since then they had skyrocketed from to $5000, he said.

The protesters aired their individual frustrations to Mayor Andrew Judd, along with some counsillors and chief executive Barbara McKerrow waiting outside the civic building.

''You ain't seen nothing yet,'' Mr Williams told Mr Judd.

The group demanded action from the council whose wages they paid, Mr Williams said.

''We pay your wages, we expect you to represent us,'' he said.

One woman said her lease had gone up to $6000. She had just lost her husband and wanted to shift but could not afford to sell.

''Lower our leases, we can't afford them,'' she said to clapping.

Another woman said their numbers may be small but they had ''umpteen phonecalls'' from other Waitara people to give their support.

''We are not alone. I know the whole community is behind us,'' she said to loud clapping. It's got to be made affordable. I don't want to see our town  die,'' she said.

''We need you to sit down with the government,'' another man yelled, while another said the council just saw Waitara as a cash cow.

Mr Judd responded with an apology that he was unable to tell the group anything they wanted to hear.

There was a current Treaty claim agreement on the table between the Crown and Te Atiawa of which the council was not a part.

A decision would be made in February or March next year.

''We have to allow it to go to its legal conclusion,'' Mr Judd said.

''On a case by case basis come and see us,'' Mr Judd told the group to jeering.

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After the meeting and when asked if the council would respond to calls to leave leases at the old rates until the treaty decisions were made, Mr Judd said legal advice to the council was that  this could not happen.

Mrs McKerrow said the council had a sale and purchase option before the Crown for the leased land and would know by March whether the Crown wanted to proceed.

''If not, the council will look at the issues.''

A report would then be prepared for the council.

And should the council become the landlord, freeholding would be one option that would be offered, Mrs McKerrow said.

She said she recognised the frustration this was causing but it was only a short while longer to find out what the situation would be.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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