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Wilderland’s future threatened with evacuation

Wilderland’s future threatened with Evacuation and Demolition Orders.

Wilderland, one of New Zealand’s longest standing communities, is being told by TCDC to evacuate and demolish every one of its dwellings.

The Wilderland Trust has been given notice of a District Court hearing, on 15 November 2010, in which Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) will seek to obtain Court Orders to evacuate and demolish every dwelling on the Wilderland property.

Undue hardship is highly likely; homes destroyed, livelihood damaged, and families being forced out into the cold to live in temporary shelter such as tents while continuing with daily work.

Wilderland is an organic farm and business and the dwellings are essential to continued operation. Wilderland roadside shop is open everyday since 1966, providing home-grown fruit, veges, and honey to the local community.

Wilderland Farm Manager, Avner Cain and Retail Manager, Shaki Cain, live at Wilderland with their 2 young daughters, Zoe (6), and Anna (4), who attend school and kindergarten in their local area. “I will live here in a tent with my family if necessary, even though it is wrong and inhumane for the council to demand it”, says Shaki Cain.

The notice, delivered on the 5 October 2010, comes after long negotiations between TCDC and the Wilderland Trust regarding the upgrade of 14 dwellings on the Wilderland property.

TCDC have recently accepted a proposal to upgrade the buildings. Wilderland has voluntarily demolished one building that was beyond repair, and consent applications for building upgrades are being prepared.

The dwellings are long established, with a successful history of use, and without mishap. TCDC have been aware of this for decades.

“For Council to seek demolition Orders now, just weeks after accepting our upgrade proposal, is surprising to say the least. Wilderland is a public asset with great heritage value and a lot to offer for the future. We are grateful for the public support and we look forward to working cooperatively with Council to meet building regulations”, says Wilderland General Manager, Russel Mooyman.

Background info

• The Wilderland Trust, a charitable trust of New Zealand, operates an organic horticultural farm and educational community, located between Coroglen and Whitianga. The 158 acres of land under stewardship of the Trust has been organically farmed since 1964, and in that time has been home to many thousands of participants and visitors from New Zealand and abroad who have come to learn about ecology, sustainable practices, organic gardening, beekeeping, shopkeeping, crafts, teamwork, and many other skills and practices pertinent to living in a cooperative and low impact way.

• March 2009 – descendents of Dan and Edith Hansen, founders of Wilderland, began attempting a takeover of the Wilderland Trust by claiming to be legal trustees. The ensuing dispute climaxed at TCDC issuing consents to demolish 13 Wilderland buildings, to this group posing as trustees. TCDC subsequently withdrew the consents, acknowledging their error, in January 2010.

• January 2010 – a High Court injunction ceased the illegal actions of false claimants, and the legal trustees were confirmed by High Court Order, in May 2010.

• Wilderland suffered substantial damages and hardship throughout this process due to thefts, interference, legal costs, and loss of business.

• With hardly a moment for the affirmed Trust to catch its breath, on the 19th May Council delivered a notice to immediately vacate and demolish all the dwellings. This notice was based on a series of visits from Council during the period the Trust was engaged in High Court proceedings and awaiting a ruling.

• After a meeting with Mayor Barriball and CEO Steve Ruru, agreement was reached that Wilderland could submit a proposal for building upgrades – this was submitted on 30 August.

• On 7th September, Wilderland received conditional acceptance of this proposal. The conditions included:
“that all buildings subject to a dangerous and insanitary building notices are not occupied” and,
“that a schedule of work is supplied by 20th September 2010 that details timeframes for the completion of each building”

• Wilderland had engaged a consultant who was working with Wilderland residents and liaising with TCDC towards submitting a consent application in due course. The notice for a District Court hearing has stopped progress for the time being.

• TCDC proposes that all costs relating to a forced demolition will be placed on the Trust’s land, and the land may be sold to recover the debt, as in TCDC notice dated 29 July 2010,
“If the Council carries out the work under the authority of an order of the District Court then the Wilderland Trust Inc will be liable for the costs of the work, the Council can recover those costs from the Trust and the amount recoverable becomes a charge on the land on which the work was carried out.”
(This is tantamount to extortion of a public asset)


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