Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Tenant wanted to develop - not lease, court told

Yong Xin Chen is being sued more than $300,000 for abandoning her Greenlane home (pictured). Photo / NZ Herald
Yong Xin Chen is being sued more than $300,000 for abandoning her Greenlane home (pictured). Photo / NZ Herald

Chinese migrant Yong Xin Chen bought a leasehold $2.4 million Greenlane property, expecting to develop it, the High Court has been told.

The high-profile case has now closed after a five day hearing. This morning Matt Casey, QC for the Cornwall Park Trust Board, finished making his closing submissions to Justice Rebecca Ellis, saying Chen and her husband Yue Lin were in the business of property development and saw 21 Maungakiekie Ave as "a prime development opportunity, an older house on a subdivisible (i.e. two unit) site in a prime location, comparable to their other developments," he said, referring to Orakei, Parnell and Mission Bay projects.

"Her focus at the time of purchase and thereafter was an expectation that the trust board would freehold the property, unlocking for them the opportunity to carry out the very type of development they undertook in Orakei and Judge's Bay. It was a calculated (albeit unsuccessful) investment decision.

It was clear they had little or no interest in the lease provisions or the new rental, as their expectation was to acquire the freehold at the end of the lease term, develop the land and make a profit," Casey said.

Chen knew the $8300 ground rent had been set in 1988 and ran only until March 2009. She claimed to have made no inquiry, and had no knowledge of, the likely new rental except for what appears to have been a casual remark by a real estate agent, Casey said.

"Her expectation was that the rent would increase to at least $40,000 from March 2009," Casey said.

Chen and her daughter Shanshan Lin both gave evidence in the case. Chen said she had done up the house, buying a new gas stove, rangehood, dishwasher, waste master and new laundry cabinets and sink.

Chen said the board could have sold her the land "but you refused to negotiate. It's not fair you should ask me to pay all this money retrospectively. I believe it's unreasonable. I think everybody present here would find this incredible. I don't think it's consistent with the original donor of Cornwall Park or the purpose of Cornwall Park as a charitable organisation," Chen told Casey, although the judge advised her to limit her answers to address the questions Casey had asked her.

Shanshan Lin told how relatives from China also lived with her family at the house, particularly at the time her mother was ill.

Chen was represented in the case by Loo & Koo lawyer Jenny Wickes.

The judge has reserved her decision.

- NZ Herald

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