Resident removal ‘callous’ - MP

The Otago Taieri A&P Society has been labelled "callous" and "intimidating" after doubling down on their bid to have long-term residents of the showground camping area removed.

On Thursday morning, the society served the residents with an eviction letter, giving them 24 hours to vacate the site.

Yesterday morning, a police officer was sent by the society to serve trespass notices to the remaining campers, giving them until 5pm yesterday, to go.

"That feels intimidating to me," a resident who declined to be named, said.

Taieri MP Ingrid Leary tried to mediate between the residents and the society yesterday morning, but the society stood firm on the eviction and trespass notices.

"They [the society] have been quite callous in my view," Ms Leary said.

"Regardless of the legalities, there needs to be a fair and equitable way to move this forward for everybody.

"We’re really concerned about the people who are here, the short amount of notice, and the health risks to some of my constituents."

She had hoped to "buy a little bit more time, unravel what’s going on, and then find a way forward that is not going to be so completely and utterly stressful for the people who’ve been here".

Thursday’s eviction letter said the society had been looking into the legality of its camping facility and found "to our dismay" that it did not have any consents relating to its operation.

So the society was temporarily shutting down the camp-over facility until the issue was sorted with the Dunedin City Council.

"We appear to be in breach of local council regulations.

"On the advice of our lawyers, we will be shutting down all infrastructure related to this facility with immediate effect and advise that you need to vacate our premises by 9am Friday, December 8, 2023."

The short notice left some residents in shock, because unbeknown to them, a letter warning of eviction had been posted on the society’s office door several weeks earlier.

The majority of residents had now vacated, but were left feeling "bullied" and "intimidated" by the society — particularly 71-year-old pensioner Craig Reeves, who is recovering from a stroke and had been living on the site for the past 10 years.

Otago Taieri A&P Society campground resident Craig Reeves discusses the issues at the site with...
Otago Taieri A&P Society campground resident Craig Reeves discusses the issues at the site with Taieri MP Ingrid Leary yesterday. PHOTO: CRAIG BAXTER
When the power was turned off on Thursday, he became extremely anxious because he needed the power for a machine that assists him with breathing.

He tried to ask the society for an extension because his stroke had left him without a driving licence for one year and he was not legally allowed to move the bus he lives in.

While he could find someone else to move it for him, he had nowhere to move it to.

He said there were other motor camp in Dunedin, but they were all on restricted time — 7-14 days, not permanent — and the rates were much higher.

It meant he would have to find somebody to move his bus every seven days.

"I have no problem leaving — I’m quite happy to go — I just can’t go right now because of my medical and licensing issue.

"That’s all I wanted to tell them ... but they’ve refused to engage. They simply won’t talk to me."

A landowner on a neighbouring property has kindly offered Mr Reeves and another campground resident a large bus and space to park for the short term, until somewhere more appropriate could be found.

Mr Reeves said he was grateful for the offer.

Because the moves were only a temporary solution, Ms Leary has called a meeting with the Dunedin City Council, Mosgiel Taieri Community Board members, and the residents, at the Wingatui race-course at 10am on Monday.

The aim was to find a longer-term solution for the residents, she said.

"I’ll ensure that whatever happens, Craig has access to power for his breathing machine."

Otago Taieri A&P Society spokesman John Freeland again failed to return calls from the Otago Daily Times yesterday, and when an unnamed society member was asked why they had given such short notice to residents, they responded, "no comment".

A Dunedin City Council spokesman confirmed yesterday that the DCC had never issued any resource consents authorising the use of the Taieri A&P showgrounds as a camping ground.