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Masterton Council Progressing Public Housing Land

Masterton District Council [MDC] is seeking High Court permission to sell or lease vacant trust land at Panama Village and use it for public housing.

The Panama Village land was donated to the Wairarapa Hospital Board by Arthur Powys Whatman, who died in 1938.

Whatman’s bequest was subject to very specific directions that the land be used for a rest home for the “sick, aged, or needy”.

His will directed that “no part of my trust realty shall at any time be sold, let, or leased”.

In 1958, a home for the elderly was established on the land, but it ran at a loss and so the then Masterton Borough Council proposed the land be transferred to the council so it could build houses or villas for the elderly.

This was approved by the Supreme Court in 1966.

Today, Panama Village contains 44 senior housing units, a tenanted home on a separate title, and an area of undeveloped land.

MDC is seeking a new scheme from the High Court that would allow for the undeveloped land to be leased or sold and used for public housing.

A hearing has been scheduled for July 15.

In an affidavit to the court, MDC chief executive Kym Fell said there was an urgent need for more housing in the Masterton district and that there was a shortage of rental accommodation and “significant waitlists for housing with community housing providers in Masterton”.

“I understand there is a waitlist of 250 people wanting community or public housing in the Wairarapa as a whole,” he said in his affidavit.

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However, the council does not have the resources to construct and operate further public housing within its current budgets, without rate increases or deferring other important projects.

As part of the adoption of the 2021-31 Long-Term Plan, MDC resolved to make the vacant land at Panama Village available for someone else to build public housing on.

In June 2022, the council resolved to sell the land, subject to High Court approval, on the condition that it be used for public housing.

The council is also willing to consider a lease proposal.

Any proceeds from the sale or lease of the vacant land would be used to fund necessary infrastructure works to enable the development of public housing on the land, with any remainder being used for the maintenance, upkeep, repair, improvement, or development of Panama Village.

Fell said the council had kept the existing residents of Panama Village informed of the steps it had been taking towards seeking High Court approval of the new scheme.

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