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Conflict over campground

Lake Ferry Holiday Park was the subject of an SWDC public-excluded meeting yesterday. PHOTO/FILE

Tensions were ratcheting up ahead of yesterday’s extraordinary South Wairarapa District Council meeting to discuss a public-excluded report.

Lake Ferry Holiday Park owner Mary Tipoki said she knew nothing of the meeting or report concerning her business until reading Tuesday’s Times-Age, and subsequently made a request to speak at the meeting.

She said, however, that the lack of communication was the last straw after several years of what she described as harassment and bullying by the council.

She said there had been a campaign to find her in breach of the lease and remove her as manager.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] said it “completely refutes” the allegations, and said all campsites were required to meet campground regulations and terms of the lease.

“They have been bullying me, harassing me, and are hostile,” Tipoki said.

“They are trying to terminate my lease, they are trying to get rid of me,” she said.

Tipoki and her late husband Maurice bought the holiday park business on 2.9hectares of council reserve land in 2002.

The business owns all the buildings and the sewage and water systems.

It has been on the market since April, with the 16.5-year right of renewal lease up for review next year.

At 74, Tipoki said she wanted to retire but, despite plenty of interest, has struggled to sell the profitable business.

“I had a potential buyer but as soon as they found out they had to work with the council, they backed out.”

She said she understood why her relationship with the council had deteriorated over the past three and half years.

“I lost my husband on April 14, 2019. Three months later began what I can only describe as hostility from the council.

“They were questioning, examining, sending letters, doing inspections, it’s been ongoing until now.

“It nearly killed me. I was a new widow.”

She said the implementation of a “zero waste policy” precipitated the relationship breakdown with the council.

“It was a couple of months after Maurice died, almost straight away, because I couldn’t lift the rubbish. He could, and I couldn’t.”

Tipoki said that, with permission from the council, she trialed a waste minimisation programme.

“Subsequently I turned a truck and trailer into two rubbish bags. My clients got behind me, they were all recycling.”

Tipoki said a handful of disgruntled campsite-goers complained, however, and instead of the council speaking to her, what followed was a raft of inspections of the park’s waste management services.

She said she had two visits from the council’s environment office to inspect the rubbish bins, ensuring they had the required 50 metres spacing, and a lid.

“Nobody even used them, which shows how successful my policy was.

“But they tried to say I had a filthy camp, they are trying to find me in breach of my lease.

“They have been trying for three and a half years.”

Tipoki said she had a folder documenting a year’s worth of correspondence with the council including “threatening emails” from chief executive Harry Wilson.

“I’m expendable. I was an easy target as a woman. Men don’t like women telling them what to do.”

Tipoki said she felt obligated to speak up to protect her 83 campsite clients and her husband’s memory.

“I do not want to negate my husband. They cannot shove me off as if I’m an old piece of rubbish.”

A council spokesperson said the council had a regulatory requirement to undertake safe management of the campsite.

“We completely refute any allegation that the council of chief executive has harassed Mary Tipoki in any way.

“We have treated Mary with the utmost respect and professionalism at all stages of the process.”

The council said it continued to support Tipoki meet lease conditions, and its predominant concern was the safety and well-being of residents and the campground.

It said yesterday’s meeting was public-excluded because it was commercially sensitive and confidential in nature.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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