Vulnerable holiday park residents evicted in Whakatāne

7:10 pm on 8 April 2021

Long-term residents of a holiday park in Whakatāne say they are being kicked out of their homes and have nowhere else to go because the council is reviewing occupancy rules.

Despite the council saying no one has been asked to leave the holiday park, this group of permanent residents and many others all say they have been told to go.

Despite the council saying no one has been asked to leave the holiday park, this group of permanent residents and many others all say they have been told to go. Photo: Charlotte Jones / LDR

Whakatāne District Council denies anyone has been asked to leave and says it will work with those affected by the occupancy rule change.

The group of 30 residents, some of whom have been living at the park for five years, include the parents of a four-year-old girl, who say they are on a Kainga Ora waiting list for a house.

Other residents said they had been given a few days' notice to leave by the camp managers.

Some said they would lose their jobs and social connections by being forced to move out of town. The holiday park is the only one within the Whakatāne township and many do not have transport to travel.

Murray, who didn't give his last name, said he had been living in a tent at the park with his partner and four-year-old daughter for the past three weeks.

They were on a waiting list for a Kainga Ora house but, until they were placed, they had nowhere else to go, he said.

The family left their previous living situation because Murray was worried for his daughter's wellbeing.

"I've been told that I have to be out in the next two weeks," Murray said.

"I just want what's best for my daughter. But where do we go? I don't know where we are going to live."

The park's longest residents, Gillian Whittaker and Rose Briggs, said they had also been asked to go.

"We've been kept in the dark, we don't know why we have been asked to leave, but we would like to stay if we can," said Briggs - who has had trouble sleeping since receiving the news.

They have been living at the park for five years and planned to move to Athenree, where they know people.

They expected to leave in the next week and the move will cost Whittaker her job.

Rachel Brown has been living at the camp for three years and loves the family she has made there.

"It's a really good community here," she said.

"We help each other out with food, rent, transport. I would like to stay in Whakatāne to be close to my friends but there's a housing shortage and there is nowhere to go, nowhere to rent."

Pensioner Phillip Russel has been living at the park for the past six weeks and is planning to go to the campground at Tirohanga, near Ōpōtiki.

He had heard there were cheap rates there over winter. Once there, Russel was not sure how he would travel to get groceries - the bus he lived in was too large to park at a supermarket and his only other form of transport was an electric scooter. The Tirohanga campground was too isolated for that to be a viable transport option.

Russel said he had been told to leave by next week.

Kevin Skelly has been living at the park since last year's lockdown and said he had no other options for accommodation.

"It's morally wrong what they are doing here," Skelly said.

"How do they expect us to find alternative accommodation in the current housing climate. At this time of year, they aren't going to be having anyone else staying. If I were a ratepayer, I would prefer to have someone staying for some kind of income."

Another resident, Alana Glatter, who has been living in tents at the park for two months, said she returned from a weekend away in Tauranga to be told she had to leave immediately.

"I was so shocked; I just about fainted," she said.

"How am I supposed to find somewhere to go with so little notice?"

She was able to pay for another week so had until then to leave.

"We've been told the council is trying to remove three undesirables, but by making us all leave they're making us all undesirables."

What does the council say?

Some of the residents were also told that they were being asked to leave as they had stayed longer than the 50 days allowed under the 1985 Camping Grounds Regulations, but council general manager community experience Georgina Fletcher said that was a misunderstanding and council staff would be speaking to each guest throughout the coming days to discuss an appropriate way forward for them.

Whakatāne council purchased the holiday park in 2017 as a strategic tourism asset to support predicted growth in the tourism industry.

Fletcher said since then, the council had invested in improving the standard of facilities and services at the holiday park and patronage had been steadily climbing, exceeding predictions.

"The Whakatāne Holiday Park has become an affordable and popular holiday choice for the many holidaymakers taking the opportunity for domestic travel in the current Covid-19 climate," she said.

"Campgrounds across Aotearoa encounter challenges with the use of campgrounds for semi or permanent living. As such, government has a set of rules around the use of campgrounds that provide for the health and safety of those using them.

"The 1985 Camping Grounds Regulations state that occupants must vacate a campground after 50 days. Conditions about length of stay and return period within that guideline can be determined by campground owner/operators."

Staff were revising the holiday park conditions of occupancy with regard to its purpose as a destination tourism opportunity, Fletcher said.

"Once the conditions of occupancy have been finalised, these will be communicated directly with those who may be affected.

"Council and holiday park staff have been talking to those within the campground who have no obvious alternative accommodation options and talking with agencies to find solutions. Council is painfully aware of the need for social housing. It is a community problem that requires a community approach.

"No action has been taken by holiday park management to ask occupants to vacate, however, management have been ensuring usual conditions of occupancy such as payment of fees, and up-to-date electrical warrant of fitness to safely connect to the Holiday Park power supply."

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