Michael Wright.

Buyout proposal could be ‘solution’

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A deal to buy Waimea Village from current owners Michael and Carolyn Wright has been proposed as court action looms in the bitter dispute between residents of the village and the Wrights.

Tasman District councillor Kit Maling has been working with residents at Richmond’s Waimea Village in their dispute over lease fee increases over the past two years. He says residents need to start thinking long term, and buying the village from the Wrights is one way to secure their future without having to worry about massive annual lease increases.

He says he has been in contact with representatives of the Wrights over a proposed deal but hasn’t had an answer as yet.

The proposal comes hot on the heels of the latest special meeting hosted by the residents committee at the village on Sunday, where its chairman Jerry Rowland confirmed a court date for their case against the Wrights. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 13 as the residents attempt to get a repair and replacement fund put into a trust, as they fear the money stipulated for repairs and replacement is not being used as it should. The separate fund was ordered by the arbitrator in the last round of lease disputes last year.

Jerry told the packed village hall, with some having to stand outside the doors, that their lawyer Warwick Heal was confident of success.

In an interesting twist, the two sides will meet this week to discuss the dispute. But residents at the meeting were clear in their opposition to any deal being struck with one resident saying he doesn’t trust Michael Wright to act in good faith.

But the major issue of the day was the lease increase. An arbitrator last year awarded an increase to the Wrights from $125 to $182.76 per month, but many of the residents have yet to pay and the 60 days grace they are legally entitled to will end on January 29.

Some residents say debt recovery firm Baycorp has been in touch asking for them to pay up, but Jerry says until they get proof that a separate bank account has been set up for the repair and replacement fund, residents are not obliged to pay.

Michael told Nelson Weekly Baycorp was the first step in recovering owed money, when asked what will happen to those who have not paid after January 29 he replied: “It’s clear in the lease what will happen.” He would not elaborate but the lease states if lease fees are 60 days overdue then the lease will “cease” and be forfeited.

Residents own their own homes and pay council rates and other bills on top of their monthly lease fees.

Michael says the separate account for a repair and replacement fund has “definitely” been set up and that another review – and possibly another increase – would be ready “in the near future”. “Obviously we have a lot of other issues we’re dealing with at this point in time but we are dealing with that one as well so that will be forthcoming.” He refused to say if that would include another increase.

Nelson Grey Power is also preparing to join the fight against the village owners. Pam Coltman, a legal executive and representative from Grey Power, was at the meeting and told the residents the organisation was considering a grant for its legal “war chest” and offering other support.

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