A pair of Auckland pensioners have a property they never dreamed would be worth so much, making them millionaires on paper, but there-in lies their trap.

Angela and Milan Erceg cannot afford to keep their $1.5 million property on Marsden Point Rd outside Whangarei but nor does anyone want to buy it, leaving them in a unique situation.

This is a salutary story, a reminder that property can be an extremely illiquid asset and a cautionary example of how people's real estate plans don't always work out as they expect.

Due to escalating land values, the couple are baulking at a $24,500/year annual Whangarei District Council rates bill and say they have to borrow just to be able to afford to pay.

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Attempts to sell the 6.3ha site have also failed, after two real estate agents came up with not a single contract. Mr Erceg said he had no definite sum in mind for the sale and was open to reasonable offers.

"We are pensioners, can you please help us? Further to the plight of your correspondent ... buying a section and losing $25,000 over eight years - our losses are much higher. In 1970, we bought a block of land north of Auckland. On purchase, it was zoned industrial, two years later council deferred it to rural, until 10 years ago when they changed it back to industrial. Rates blew from $1700 annually to $47,000 annually. We can't sell it, nor can we give it away," Mrs Erceg wrote.

That "worthless" land is not producing any return.

The Erceg's lawyer Angus Rogers wrote to the council that the land was being grazed, leased to a neighbour for $1800/year although it cost $1500/year to keep it clear of gorse.

The land was valued at $3.5 million up until 2012 when the Ercegs objected, but although that value was sliced back, they still cannot afford to keep the place.

The story dates back 46 years ago when the Ercegs bought the Marsden Point land, incurring rates of only $1516 earlier last decade.

All was going well for the Ercegs, only being charged a manageable $1516 annual rates which they could afford until around 2006.

Then their fortunes took what many would say was a turn for the better - the paddocks valued at only $285,000 suddenly turned into fields of gold at the stroke of a pen when the re-zoning increased its value to $3.5 million.

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The couple argued against that and an associated colossal annual rates bill so the value was chopped back to just $1.5 million.

But they say even with that cut, they still can't afford it. They have no buyers knocking on their door, must live frugally and can't afford to paint their Auckland house.

Various council officials have written to the Ercegs explaining the situation and why it cannot be changed.

Council rates manager Bill Harris informed them in 2006 of the new charges.

So the couple have now gone public with their plight and appealed for readers' help.

The Ercegs are open to offers and suggestions. Email angela.erceg @xtra.co.nz.