Man, 77, tearful over unit sale

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013
james barber
JOSEPH JOHNSON

WHAT NOW?: James Barber in Oxford hospital recovering from spinal surgery.

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James Barber found out his home was being auctioned while lying in a hospital bed.

The 77-year-old was recovering from spinal surgery when his neighbour rang to say a sign advertising an auction on December 17 had been planted outside the retirement unit he was supposed to have the right to occupy until death.

With the phone up against his ear, Barber went "icy cold" and started to shake and cry.

Barber is one of the last remaining residents of the Crossdale Courts retirement complex in Upper Riccarton.

The residents have been in legal battles since 2008 after the owner and former police detective sergeant Gary Campbell failed to meet mortgage payments, went bankrupt, fled to Australia and left residents to deal with finance companies.

Twenty-four residents all paid a personal loan from $40,000 up to Barber's $77,000 for the licence to occupy the units until death - but they did not get any ownership rights and the finance companies that took over the complex began evicting the residents.

Over the past five years, some of the residents have died, some are now in palliative care, some were evicted and some reached deals with the companies.

Only eight of the original residents remain, including Barber who feels "abandoned by justice". He has vowed to keep fighting.

"I have worked hard all my life and I have never had much, but what am I supposed to do now?

"I am going to be left with nothing so do I just toss it all into a corner and say 'Roll over and die Jim?' No - I'm not going to do that. If they want me out, they can damn well carry me out."

Mortgagee Massolit Limited filed an application with the High Court to conduct the sale of Barber's unit.

The widower and father of three claims he was not informed of the impending auction until his neighbour rang last week.

Auckland-based law firm Carter Kirkland Morrison is acting on behalf of Massolit Limited and said the mortgagee had "no comment".

Barber is due to be discharged from Oxford Hospital on December 11, a week before the auction.

He said that some nights he had cried himself to sleep, asking: "What am I going to do now?"

Barber was a British child migrant fostered out to a New Zealand family at the age of 15 and said throughout his entire life he had "never been an emotional man".

"My family will say that I'm a hard man, maybe I've had to be hard over the years because I've never had a lot of anything and everything I've ever got I have won by the power of my own hands.

"Now I am left thinking ‘Where did I go wrong?' Did I really present myself as such a fool?"

Last October, Barber pleaded with the Christchurch City Council to buy the Curletts Rd complex and add it to its diminished social housing stock.

The council initially supported Barber's plea but never acted on it, leaving the residents feeling "let down".

"It feels as if I am standing on the edge of a cliff and the wind is blowing the wrong way. It's like I am about to drop off the edge of the world and there are very few people who care," he said.

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With all options exhausted, Barber is now pleading for the mortgagee to "show some humanity and honour" to him and the remaining residents.

"This is people we are dealing with. I can't believe human beings can do this sort of thing to each other."

Barber's lawyer, Dean Palmer, was researching the terms of the auction, but said his client's equitable rights would most likely be trumped by the mortgagee's legal rights.

A Christchurch City Council spokeswoman said it was trying to find the residents social housing.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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