South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] has bought the assets of a holiday park for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
SWDC confirmed yesterday that it has bought the assets of Lake Ferry Holiday Park in South Wairarapa, but declined to comment on the price, citing commercial confidentiality.
It is understood, however, that the deal cost the council more than $300,000, not including legal fees.
The news comes two days after SWDC increased the district’s rates by an average of almost 20 per cent, due to the need to invest in infrastructure.
The former leaseholder, Mary Tipoki, who sold the assets to SWDC, said the deal was the culmination of her being subjected to sustained bullying and intimidation by council staff.
She said SWDC started exerting pressure on her about the campsite shortly after her husband’s death in 2019.
Tipoki and her husband Maurice took over the facility in 2002.
“When I lost him, the bullying and intimidation started,” she said.
“I feel because I’m a widow, I’m more vulnerable.
“I’ve been bullied and intimidated and threatened ever since. With legal correspondence, with pretty much everything they could think of – trying to find something I’ve done wrong.”
Tipoki said SWDC had made unfair allegations over a long period of time about rubbish disposal, lack of lighting, and other things.
“They sent two officers down one night at 8pm to check my lights were going. The amount of money that’s been spent by council on this camping ground trying to find something wrong with what I’ve done is a burden on the ratepayers,” she said.
“Every few months, two more officers would come down to inspect to make sure I’d cleaned the place properly, mown the lawns – anything they could find to pick on me.
“One day, I couldn’t cope any longer, and I burst into tears,” she said.
Tipoki said she had successfully managed the facility on her own.
“I have testimony from endless campers about how much they enjoyed staying in the camping ground.”
Eventually, SWDC refused to renew the campsite licence, which led to Tipoki not having the lease to the land renewed this year, and the just-completed sale of the site’s assets to SWDC. [The council said it did not renew the lease because the campsite was not compliant.]
“I’m beaten,” Tipoki said.
“I was entitled to a 16-and-a-half-year right of renewal. It hasn’t been given to me.
“I’ve had to capitulate to sell because I can’t stand it any longer.”
Tipoki’s account is at variance with a statement issued by SWDC about the deal.
“South Wairarapa District Council and Mrs Mary Tipoki are pleased to confirm that a mutually acceptable end to the long-term Lake Ferry Holiday Park lease has been reached,” it said.
SWDC manager of partnerships and operations, James O’Connor, said he was grateful for the constructive way Tipoki had engaged to reach an outcome that met the needs of both parties.
“I’d like to acknowledge the huge amount of mahi done by the Tipoki whānau at the holiday park over a long period of time,” he said.
O’Connor responded on behalf of SWDC to the allegations of intimidation and bullying with the following statement:
“We are pleased to see Mary walk away with a fair deal, and we are grateful for the mahi put in by Mary and her whānau over the years.
“We look forward to continuing to build on what is there so visitors can have a safe and secure base to experience the amazing coastal sights,” he said.
According to its initial statement about the sale, “the council has loan-funded the purchase of the assets with repayments largely being met through proceeds from the holiday park.”
“The council is currently engaged in conversations with a potential new leaseholder who has a reputable track record. Once an agreement has been reached, council will put out a further press release. The new leaseholder will help council with development of the site,” the statement concluded.
“It is not expected that there will be any impact on ratepayers from interest costs as income will be used to offset these,” O’Connor added.
Tipoki said she has mixed feelings about the concluded deal.
“I feel really angry,” she said.
“I’ll miss the company. I enjoyed that every day. But on the other hand, I’m mightily relieved that I don’t have to face council anymore. There’s no more inspections, there’s no more bullying, there’s no more telling me my lights are not working and taking photographs.
“That’s finished – they will have to do this. Now they own it. Running a camping ground is not five minutes work – it’s hard work.”
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