26 Jul 2011

Tongan King withdraws bid to sell Auckland residence

2:14 pm on 26 July 2011

A Tongan royal residence in Auckland will remain the state's property after the King gave in to protestors' demands and withdrew his bid to sell up.

The 1-point-6 hectare Epsom estate was bought in 1952 for 15 thousand pounds and is now valued at between nine and 10 million dollars.

King George Tupou the fifth tried to sell the house last year but a group of Tongans lodged a High Court caveat, protecting the property.

A lawyer for the group, Joel Fotu, says the King challenged the caveat but has now withdrawn his legal action.

Mr Fotu says the King was given advice that the property was purchased by his grandmother, Queen Salote, but extensive research showed the purchase was actually made using state funds.

He says the future of the residence is uncertain.

"I suppose the property is safe for the time being because basically it belongs to the government of Tonga and it's up to the government to do what they want with it."

A lawyer, Joel Fotu.