Mayor can't act on rent levels

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 09/01/2014

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Disgruntled Waitara leaseholders are vowing to disrupt all three of New Plymouth's Cricket World Cup qualifying matches at Pukekura Park next week.

In an email sent to Taranaki Daily News from an address used by leaseholder Eric Williams, it stated they planned to meet at the New Plymouth District Council Civic Centre on the mornings of the matches.

They would then march the 350m up Liardet St to the cricket ground and "disrupt the cricket" in protest at what they say are unaffordable rent increases on their properties.

The three International Cricket Council one-day matches involve Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Uganda and the Netherlands, and will be held on January 13, 16 and 19.

Mr Williams said he planned on having around 100 people march on to the field to stop the game.

In December, he led a group of about 50 protesters down New Plymouth's Leach St to the council.

The group wanted Mayor Andrew Judd to move on reducing their ground rents for the lease land which have recently been increased from about $450 to near $4000 a year.

Yesterday Mr Judd said it was the group's democratic right to protest and asked them to ensure they kept themselves safe.

He said he was always ready to meet with them, as he had three times before.

"It's frustrating for me and everybody because we are obviously not finding a solution," he said.

The mayor reiterated he was unable to make any move on the rents as the lease properties were currently on offer to Te Atiawa as part of their Treaty of Waitangi settlement package.

"Until that's decided my hands are tied," he said.

Te Atiawa are expected to make a decision about the 770 properties in March, but have repeatedly refused to make any comment on the issue before it is decided.

Council recreation and events manager Ron Murray said council hoped to meet with the protest organisers before next week.

"Out of respect for the visiting international cricket teams and the people who are looking forward to attending these matches, we hope that the matches can go ahead without any disruption," he said.

"Whilst we appreciate the right of the Waitara leaseholders to protest, we also have contractual commitments to the ICC to deliver three successful Cricket World Cup qualifying matches."

No one from the ICC could be contacted about the threat.

This is not the first time a group has used international sporting events to pressure council.

In 2010 a group of Waitara residents threatened a hikoi on New Plymouth Rugby World Cup games if the council did not start building the Waitara sewerage pipeline.

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That threat of international embarrassment never materialised as the pipeline was soon given the green light.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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