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Kaitāia GP $130k out of pocket after having to sell occupied land to council

Editor Written by Editor · 3 min read >

Occupiers moved on to a property on Ahipara’s Wharo Way in October 2021, after a significant pohutukawa tree they believed had been protected by being placed in a reserve was not protected at all.

Kaitāia GP Cecil Williams is thinking about leaving the town after 35 years, after being “forced” to sell his property, which had been occupied by a local iwi, for about $130,000 less than its Quotable Value.

Williams’ property at 1 Wharo Way, Ahipara, was first occupied in October 2021 by members of Te Rarawa who were unhappy that a culturally significant pōhutukawa on the property had been partly felled for a house site.

The iwi members were angry because they were led to believe the tree had been included in a reserve at the front of the land when it was subdivided. However, the reserve was later made smaller and the tree included in the property at 1 Wharo Way that the Williamses bought.

The iwi members felt betrayed over what were assurances the culturally significant site at Ahipara would be fully protected as a public reserve.

Williams said he and his wife, Marna, checked when they bought the section that there were no land claims or any other issues with it, and after being assured there were none, bought it for $500,000. The tree was not listed as protected or significant on the council’s website.

He said they were the innocent parties in the debacle and had done nothing wrong, yet were seriously out of pocket due to no actions of their own.

The land was occupied for almost a year before Far North District Council, in an effort to solve the impasse, agreed to buy the land from the Williamses.

At its August meeting where it agreed to buy the land, Kahika/Mayor Moko Tepania acknowledged that historic actions had seen undertakings to protect 1 Wharo Way broken. While the council would never be a default Office of Treaty Settlements, it had acknowledged there were special circumstances that led to the motion for council to negotiate the purchase of the land supported, he said.

Williams said the couple were caught in a fait accompli as they had to sell the land to the council because nobody else would buy a property that was being occupied and under such dispute.

“Who would buy land that was being occupied and nothing was being done to move the occupiers off?”

Kaitāia GP Cecil Williams is contemplating leaving the town after 35 years due to being significantly out of pocket by having to sell his Ahipara property to FNDC for well below its QV valuation.
Kaitāia GP Cecil Williams is contemplating leaving the town after 35 years due to being significantly out of pocket by having to sell his Ahipara property to FNDC for well below its QV valuation.

The couple are angry and upset that they had to settle with the council for $437,500 for the land when the QV valuation a year earlier was for $560,000, and feel they had no choice but to sell, given that nobody else would buy it.

At the start of the occupation, Williams offered to sell the land to Te Rarawa, or the council for the $500,000 they paid for it, and is now upset they are out of pocket by so much.

“It’s prime waterfront land, but the council’s independent valuation in September last year said it was only worth $400,000. Yet the council’s own Quotable Value in October the year before said the property was worth $560,000. I know prices have dropped a bit, but I can’t see how such a piece of coastal land has dropped by $160,000 in a year. That’s hard to take.”

FNDC has been approached for comment, but had not responded by publishing time.

Williams said the property was to be where they built their dream home to retire, but after 35 years as a GP in Kaitāia, the saga had left such a sour taste that they were seriously considering selling up their other property and moving away.

“It’s hard enough as it is to get GPs up here, but this has really hit us hard. The stress and the anxiety this has caused us, the sleepless nights and worry have been unbearable. Through no fault of our own we have now had to take a huge financial hit, and I’m upset that after all these years helping this community, we’ve had such little support and are seen as the bad guys.”

He said they were not aware the pōhutukawa was supposed to be protected or that it was supposed to have been on a reserve; had they known, they would not have bought the land in the first place.

Williams acknowledged he had stopped paying rates on the land from when the occupiers moved in because he was unable to use the land, and neither the council nor police would move the protesters off. The roughly $8000 outstanding rates were paid from the property sale price to the council.

Mike Dinsdale is the editor of the Northland Age who also covers general news for the Advocate. He has worked in Northland for almost 34 years and loves the region.

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