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Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Debt swamps Whangaparoa riverside dream

Marilyn Palmer says many Riverhaven Drive section owners have health problems from the financial stress of the rates burden. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Marilyn Palmer says many Riverhaven Drive section owners have health problems from the financial stress of the rates burden. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The map calls it Riverhaven Drive but for the people who wanted to live there it is "Heartbreak St".

Owners of the Whangaparaoa riverside sections agitated for 60 years to have it built so they could visit by car.

Without it, their legal access was by rowboat and they could not apply for a permit to build a house.

Now the road is formed to serve their bushy sites overlooking the tranquil Weiti River, they should be celebrating. Instead, most are leaving - and with bitterness.

Eighteen owners of sections on the road say its construction cost increased so much over the years that they cannot afford to build their homes in what they had hoped would be an environmental and family paradise.

Four have sold - in the face of rates of more than $10,000 a year levied by Auckland Council to recover the $3 million cost of the 950m length of road.

John Buckland has sold for no profit, blaming the rise in the targeted rates, which are on top of the council's property rates.

The sale price of $320,000 included a $115,000 lump sum to clear his share of the road cost. Others can pay off their share over the next 19 years through a rate currently set at $10,450 a year.

Mr Buckland said what was basically a loan from the council at 7.6 per cent interest drew 15 per cent GST.

A section owners' association worked to get the road formed - paying $750,000 towards it when the former Rodney District Council refused to build it.

Association president Marilyn Palmer said many of the 18 members had health problems resulting from worry and financial stress. They had been treated like developers rather than would-be residents.

Over 15 years, the association had asked the council for a fair and equitable sharing of costs for the public road to the council's riverside reserve.

Mrs Palmer said road work would have finished in 2008 but for constantly changing demands by the district council and Auckland Regional Council.

This pushed the cost from $840,000.

Section owner Rodney Harvey said that during the 15 years, his section's zoning had been changed three times - severely restricting what could be built there until it was uneconomic to do so.

"We have a huge rates bill for what was to be a driveway and I don't think many of us can go on with this level of rating violence."

However, Auckland Council's strategy and finance committee has ruled out any easing of the financial burden.

It acknowledged the road costs were unforseen and the flow-on effect to the rates - from $3000 a year for 10 years - must have come as a surprise.

Council finance manager Kevin Ramsay said normally, developers put in roads before selling sections and built that cost in to the section price. The council then took ownership of the roads and maintained them.

The original developer in 1927 sold sections without doing this.

- NZ Herald

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