Interim agreement reached between council and trust

Wellington, Nov 15 NZPA - Court action by the Thames-Coromandel District Council against one of New Zealand's oldest co-operative communities has been postponed until February after an agreement reached on Friday.

An application for a court order to enforce council requirements had its first call in the Thames District Court this morning, but was adjourned by consent until February.

The council was seeking the orders to enforce dangerous and insanitary notices issued against 13 buildings at Wilderland Trust in May.

The trust has been fighting to keep residents' houses from being demolished after the council sought an order to evacuate and demolish all dwellings on the property, located on the upper reaches of the Whitianga estuary. The council claimed the buildings did not meet health and safety standards.

Wilderland community representatives last month held urgent talks with the council in an effort to buy more time to upgrade their buildings.

Today's deferment was subject to the trust vacating the affected buildings within 14 days and providing a schedule of works by December 13 detailing the order of priority and timeframes to bring each of the affected buildings up to the required standard.

The council acknowledged the trust would deal with the buildings on a staged basis and said it was willing to deal with the buildings on a case by case basis. However, it wanted to see the trust's management plan before making any further decisions.

The council said it would not seek costs unless it was required to go back to court to resolve the issues.

However, it reserved the right to put the matter back before the court on three days notice if the trust did not vacate the buildings and provide the action plan as required.

The community was established by Dan and Edith Hansen in the 1960s for people wanting to help build an organic lifestyle.

In 1987 the couple gifted the 64-hectare property to a charitable trust and for the past 23 years it has continued to run as an organic horticultural farm and educational community. At present there are seven permanent residents and a number of visitors.

Following Mr Hansen's death about three years ago, the community became embroiled in a bitter dispute with his daughter and Wilderland neighbour Heather Hansen. Her mother is in her late 90s and in ill-health.

In March 2009, Ms Hansen and her family tried to take over Wilderland, claiming to be its legal trustees. The council issued consents to them to demolish 13 buildings on the property.

The trust contested the Hansens' claims in the High Court and won its case in January this year. The council consents were withdrawn but in May, the council issued a notice to evacuate and demolish the buildings.

- Content provided to you by NZPA



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