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Tipoki show their emotions

Mary Tipoki with several years’ worth of council correspondence. PHOTO/MARY ARGUE

Emotions ran high in a South Wairarapa District Council meeting before the doors closed on the public.

Ahead of Wednesday’s public-excluded meeting about the Lake Ferry Holiday Park, business owner Mary Tipoki and son Raihania Tipoki addressed councillors and council staff.

Raihania said his family were disgusted and disappointed with their treatment at the hands of council staff, which he said had severely affected his mother’s well-being.

Mary Tipoki said she had been subject to a relentless council campaign to find the holiday park in breach of its lease agreement since her husband’s death in 2019.

In particular, South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] chief executive Harry Wilson came under fire for his involvement.

“My family is quite disgusted at how they have been treated,” Raihania said.

“Mainly Harry, for what you have put my mum through. [We] are quite disgusted in you, Harry, and what you have done.”

The family were unaware of the meeting and public-excluded report concerning the campground until an article in Tuesday’s Times-Age and requested to speak to councillors.

Mary Tipoki outlined the history of Lake Onoke [Ferry], the surrounding Maori-gifted land, and her family’s 20-year commitment to the campground.

She said when the family took over the lease in 2002, untreated sewage flowed into Lake Onoke.

The Tipoki family inherited 35 static caravans, exotic trees, and a horse grazing half the campground, however, there was no drinking water, marked boundaries, or camp plan.

“We set about rectifying these camp matters,” Mary said, building a children’s playground, planting natives, and installing a wastewater system.

“[We] made the entire camp available to the public, which we consider the most important part of our lease.”

She said a disagreement with the council over the static caravans, now more than 80 onsite, overshadowed decades of financial commitment and hard work.

When questioned, Raihania confirmed that the first council compliance emails began months after his father’s death.

“The best thing would have been to sit down with the whole family because it affects all of us.

“Mum has felt isolated and quite bullied over the last few years, and it has affected her physical and mental health.”

He said the family had felt close to resolution before, but then the council had shifted the goal posts. He said mediation had not been offered.

The Times-Age sought comment from SWDC about the meeting and asked whether the council would engage with the wider Tipoki whanau.

A spokesperson reiterated that the council refuted any allegations of bullying or harassment.

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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