Leaseholders to go to arbitration

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 03/02/2014

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Feelings of frustration, anxiety and helplessness were vented by Waitara leaseholders yesterday.

About 250 people attended a meeting held in Waitara's War Memorial Hall.

Leaseholder Eric Williams said the group unanimously agreed to get independent valuations of the land, which they lease from the New Plymouth District Council.

"There is something radically wrong with the current valuations," he said of the amount set by independent valuer Telfer Young.

The group also unanimously decided to challenge the council through arbitration as a last resort, he said.

A document was given to attendees to sign which authorised the group to go ahead with the last-resort arbitration.

The document said arbitration could cost up to $4000 a day, but would be cheaper than taking the council to court.

"We leaseholders are proud people who have never owed a cent in our lives," Mr Williams said. "We are prepared to pay a fair lease."

Councillors Craig McFarlane and Colin Johnston were both at the meeting.

"I was amazed at how many people were there, and I feel for their concerns," Mr Johnston said.

But he was worried about what the leaseholders had decided to do, because he said he had seen it happen before and was concerned the process would cost them more money.

Mr Johnston said the previous council had decided to sell the land to the Crown and the new councillors were unable to do anything about it at this stage.

More than 700 houses in Waitara are on NPDC owned land, rented out on 21-year renewable leases.

About 40 leases are renewed each year but in 2013 close to double that were reviewed with annual rents increasing to an average of $3000.

In October, the council confirmed it had agreed with the Crown on a provisional $23m transfer price for its 780 lease land properties in Waitara, as part of a Treaty settlement with Te Atiawa.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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