Vulnerable holiday park residents evicted in Whakatane

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Long-time residents of a holiday park in Whakatāne say they are being evicted from their homes and have nowhere to go because council is reviewing tenancy rules.

Although council has said no one has been asked to leave the holiday park, this group of permanent residents and many others all say they have been told to leave.
Photo: Charlotte Jones / LDR

The Whakatāne District Council denies that anyone was invited to leave and says they will work with those affected by the change in tenure rules.

The group of 30 residents, some of whom have lived in the park for five years, include the parents of a four-year-old girl, who say they are on a Kainga Ora waiting list for a house.

Other residents said they were given a few days’ notice to leave by camp officials.

Some said they would lose their jobs and social connections if they were forced to leave the city. The holiday park is the only one in Whakatāne Township and many do not have transportation to travel.

Murray, who did not give his last name, said he has been living in a tent at the park with his partner and four-year-old daughter for three weeks.

They were on a waiting list for a house in Kainga Ora but, until they were placed, they had nowhere to go, he said.

The family left their previous living situation because Murray was concerned for the well-being of his daughter.

“I was told I had to be out for the next two weeks,” Murray said.

“I just want the best for my daughter. But where are we going? I don’t know where we are going to live.”

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The park’s oldest residents, Gillian Whittaker and Rose Briggs, said they were also asked to attend.

“We have been kept in the dark, we don’t know why we were asked to leave, but we would like to stay if we can,” said Briggs – who has had trouble sleeping since receiving the news.

They have lived in the park for five years and plan to move to Athenree, where they know people.

They were expecting to leave next week and the move will cost Whittaker his job.

Rachel Brown has lived at the camp for three years and loves the family she created there.

“It’s a very good community here,” she said.

“We help each other with food, rent, transport. I would love to stay in Whakatane to be close to my friends but there is a housing shortage and there is nowhere to go, nowhere to rent.

Retired Phillip Russel has been living at the park for six weeks and plans to travel to Tirohanga Campground near pōtiki.

He had heard that there were cheap fares during the winter. Once there, Russell was unsure how he would travel to shop – the bus he lived in was too big to park in a supermarket and his only other form of transportation was an electric scooter. Tirohanga Campground was too isolated for this to be a viable transportation option.

Russel said he was told to leave next week.

Kevin Skelly has been living in the park since the lockdown last year and said he has no other accommodation options.

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“It’s morally wrong what they’re doing here,” Skelly said.

“How do they expect us to find alternative accommodation in the current housing climate. At this time of year they won’t be welcoming anyone else. If I were a taxpayer, I would rather someone else. a remainder for any person. of income. “

Another resident, Alana Glatter, who has been living in tents in the park for two months, said she returned from a weekend in Tauranga to be told she had to leave immediately.

“I was so shocked; I almost passed out, ”she said.

“How am I supposed to find a place to go on so little notice?”

She was able to pay an extra week and therefore had to leave until then.

“We have been told that the council is trying to eliminate three unwanted people, but by forcing us all to leave they are making all of us undesirable.”

What does the board say?

Some of the residents were also told that they had been asked to leave because they had stayed longer than the 50 days allowed under the 1985 Campground By-law, but the community experience of the Council’s Executive Director, Georgina Fletcher, said it was a misunderstanding and council staff would speak up. to each guest throughout the next few days to discuss an appropriate way forward for them.

Whakatāne Council purchased the holiday park in 2017 as a strategic tourism asset to support the expected growth of the tourism industry.

Fletcher said that since then the council has invested in improving the standard of the holiday park’s facilities and services and patronage has steadily increased, exceeding expectations.

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“The Whakatāne Holiday Park has become an affordable and popular vacation choice for the many vacationers who take the opportunity to travel within the current Covid-19 climate,” she said.

“Campgrounds across Aotearoa face challenges with using the campgrounds for semi-permanent or permanent living. As such, the government has a set of rules regarding the use of campgrounds that ensure the health and safety of those who use them.

“The 1985 Campground Regulations state that occupants must vacate a campground after 50 days. The conditions for length of stay and return period under this directive may be determined by the owner / operator of the campground.

Staff were in the process of revising the conditions of occupancy of the holiday park with respect to its purpose as a destination tourism opportunity, Fletcher said.

“Once the occupancy conditions are finalized, they will be communicated directly to those who may be affected.

“The council and holiday park staff spoke to the people on the campsite who have no obvious alternative accommodation options and spoke to the agencies to find solutions. The advice is painfully painful. aware of the need for social housing This is a community problem that requires a community approach.

“No action has been taken by the holiday park management to require occupants to leave the holiday park, however, the management ensured that the usual occupancy conditions such as payment of fees and a warrant up-to-date electrical ability to safely connect to the holiday supply network. “

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest information service supported by RNZ, the Association of News Editors and NZ On Air.

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