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Land sale under the microscope

Masterton District Council’s High Court application to sell vacant land at Panama Village is currently being reviewed by Crown Law to identify any potential issues ahead of its submission to the High Court.

If no major issues are identified, the council expects to lodge the application in late February or early March.

The council intends to sell the vacant land at Panama Village on the condition it is used for public housing.

Arthur Whatman gifted the land in question in 1938 to the Wairarapa Hospital Board. The bequest was subject to specific directions, including that the land be used for the “sick, aged or needy” and that “no part of the trust realty shall at any time be sold, let, or leased”.

In 1966, the court approved the transfer of Panama Village from the Hospital Board to Masterton District Council and established the “Council Scheme”.

The Council Scheme sets out the rules the council must follow to run Panama Village, largely preserving the wishes of Whatman.

It requires the council to use the land for the provision of houses or villas for the elderly and prevents the council from selling or leasing the land. Masterton District Council runs 44 senior housing units at Panama Village, occupying about one-third of the available land area, leaving 4.2ha of land vacant and available for more housing.

To change the use of the vacant land from senior housing to public housing, and to be able to sell or lease the land, the council is required to apply to the High Court for an amendment to the Council Scheme.

The High Court application is set to cost between $30k-$40k.

– NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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