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$24k rates bill for land ‘no one owns’

By Don Farmer
[email protected]
The ownership of a little piece of Greytown real estate remains in limbo, fenced off from the people of the town to which its original owners gifted it as a walkway.
Lyster’s Lane, which runs from Cotter St through to West St, appears to have been an enigma for years to all but the descendants of Pierce Cotter, who more than a century after his death are making fresh calls for the walkway to be opened up or linked to the cycle trial that runs to Woodside.
Featherston woman Lesley Wardle, a great great granddaughter of Pierce Cotter, who died in 1894, said Cotter’s son John became executor of the will and wound up the estate in 1911.
The farm had been sold but the little lane had been left for the benefit of the town.
“It appears to have been gifted to Greytown in 1916, but it keeps on coming back and the South Wairarapa District Council keeps on sending out rate demands to a John Cotter somewhere in the world who, they say, now owes over $22,000 in unpaid rates.”
Mrs Wardle said there are “anywhere between 400 and 600” descendants of Pierce Cotter and that the name Lyster had been tagged onto the narrow strip of land because the Lyster family lived on the corner of the lane and Cotter St.
For decades before the renaissance of Greytown the land had lingered without any real purpose or ownership.
It was a grass lane which was rarely used by townspeople and was from time-to-time mowed by Greytown Borough Council staff.
Young drivers began to use it as a venue for racing cars and this led to a fence being strung across its entrances. Sometime later a plea was made to the council to have them taken down and for the lane to be maintained as a public walkway in the spirit intended.
This kick started a to-and-fro campaign that even involved an approach to the Office of the Ombudsman, but nothing ever came of it and the lane has remained in its fenced-off, undeveloped state ever since.
Mrs Wardle said South Wairarapa District Council (SWDC) had wanted to sell it and had advertised to that effect but had been stymied in its attempt as it could not establish ownership.
The latest rate demand, she said, had been sent out to “some Cotter somewhere in the world” in April this year for $22,684.83.
“The land is only the width of a road and couldn’t be built on or anything like that.
“It could be that one of the genuine descendants would be interested in owning it, but not if they had to pay $22,000 in rates for it.
“What we want to see happen is for the district council to arrange to open it back up as a walkway or to incorporate it into the rail train walk which goes out to Woodside,” she said.
In a letter to Mrs Wardle in July SWDC chief executive Paul Crimp said the council was “not in a position to register anyone’s interest in the land” and that should Mrs Wardle want to claim it she would need to contact a solicitor.
Mr Crimp said the council was continuing with a “sales process through the courts” but would pause that if notification of a valid ownership was received.
He said research had revealed Lyster’s Lane was not in the name of any local authority “and as such we don’t own the land”.
“The land registry does not list us as owning the land and the minutes of council meetings reflect that the transfer to council was never effected,” he said.
Earlier this week an approach to Mr Crimp by the Times-Age revealed a search of old Greytown Borough Council minutes showed that transferring the land to the council had been discussed but was never actioned.
“As we have no ownership interest in the land we cannot control its use,” Mr Crimp said.


  1. While the physical and legal technicalities cannot be underestimated or ignored, after all this time, the situation needs to be resolved. Isn’t it about time for a common sense solution? As an interim measure at least, open up the walkway and set the debt aside.

  2. So why does Google Maps label it “Bidwill St”?
    A quick search of land records shows it is the only bit of land in NZ NZ owned by “John Cotter”.
    As an aside it has a 2014 RV of $93,000

  3. Forgo the $22 grand; allow it to be gifted and stop being prats. Why is that common sense is lost when people enter politics.

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