Squash club may have to forfeit property over unpaid rates

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A missing suitcase has added to the issues of a Southland squash club facing an uncertain future over unpaid rates.

Late last month the Southland District Council released a public notice saying the Lumsden Squash Club had not paid rates for three years and risked forfeiting its property.

Established in 1988, the club bought its Flora Rd site in 2003.

Former member Michelle Mitchell said people had not realised the club was no longer official, and the court had been used up until about two years ago.

The group was now looking at ways to re-establish so that it could sell the building and keep the money in the community, she said.

"We’re looking forward to working with council and whoever is relevant to ensure that we can make this happen," she said.

"It’s been a difficult process, because it’s been a non-existent club until now.

"We’ve all played squash and probably haven’t realised it was formally disbanded in 2001."

A former president of the club — whom Local Democracy Reporting agreed not to name — said the building had been used by other parties since the club fell into recess.

That included use as a community gym and spare court for the nearby Balfour club.

Efforts to revive things had also been stymied by its bank due to a lack of information, the person said.

"The suitcase with the minutes was lost."

As a result, the club had been locked out of its account.

In order for land to be considered abandoned, rates needed to be unpaid for a minimum of three years or the ratepayer be unknown, unreachable or deceased, a council spokesperson said.

Land could also be voluntarily abandoned.

"Currently, council has advertised an intent to abandon this land.

"This doesn’t necessarily mean it will be abandoned. We are just trying to make contact with anyone that we haven’t already to see if there is another pathway for rates recovery on this land."

The 1174sqm section would not become the property of the council if abandoned, the spokesperson said.

Instead, any money from a potential sale would be used to cover costs and unpaid rates.

Any excess from a potential sale would go to the Public Trust, and the club would miss out as it was not an incorporated society.

Meanwhile, question marks hang over when the club was actually disbanded.

The New Zealand Companies Office said the club was dissolved in 2007, while the New Zealand Gazette put the year at 2001.

If the land was declared abandoned following a court procedure, more details would be released about what was on it, the council said.

The club last paid rates three and a-half years ago.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.