Residents of 110 multimillion-dollar properties in some of Auckland's most desirable suburbs have gone to Parliament to try to overturn the law which means they pay around $5.1m annual leasehold land rent.
Auckland lawyer John Carter and the Cornwall Park Leaseholders Association have taken their case to the Local Government and Environment Parliamentary Select Committee with a petition pleading for the law to be overturned so they can escape leases costing up to $90,000-plus annually per property.
Parliament is being asked to rewrite the law and cancel leases around Cornwall Park and the base of One Tree Hill because the residents say properties are effectively being "confiscated" when residents can no longer afford exorbitant annual rent and walk off the land.
The outcome is pending.
Carter told the Herald that the residents' were desperate and 15 leaseholders had suffered financially to the point where they could not sell and were forced to simply walk away from the valuable properties they do not own.
"We felt no one cared about our problems, that 15 lessees have walked without compensation for valuable homes and the rest of us are likely to when our current 21 years expire," Carter said.
The board opposes the petition as "unconstitutional and confiscatory, without justification, unnecessary and conflicting with the purposes and vision of settlor Sir John Logan Campbell".
The board presented the select committee with a 45-page report, telling how important the income from the properties is, how it pays for the upkeep and running of One Tree Hill Domain and how the leases were perpetual, dating back to 1920.
Every 21 years, ground rent is reviewed, struck at 5 per cent of the unimproved land or section value, the board said.
John Clark, board chair, said Cornwall Park got more than 4 million visitors annually and was perceived as a "priceless treasure".
Some leaseholders had challenged the board via the courts but the board said that "in every case", proceedings had failed.
The petition said the board's income was "heavily dependent on rent received... that is currently sitting at about $5m per year of which 80 per cent is from its residential ground leases.