Council property agents have been warned off "bullying" an elderly couple into a rush sale of their home for a new highway parallel to the Southern Motorway.
Eva and Yiannis Koumaki say they are very worried after receiving a letter offering to buy their home in Goodwood Heights, Manukau, by the end of this month. The five-bedroom double-storey home they built 38 years ago after migrating from Crete is among 64 houses and a motel Auckland Transport says must make way for the first stage of a $470 million-plus four-lane highway eventually stretching 18km from Manukau to Drury via the Redoubt and Mill road corridors.
The council body says the highway is needed to serve about 22,000 new homes planned over the next 30 years. The properties could be compulsorily acquired under the Public Works Act.
But the Koumakis, who acknowledge inquiring about an early sale of their home on hardship grounds, say they were dismayed to receive a letter on March 20 offering an unacceptable price for vacant possession of the property by May 29.
"It was so fast - if they gave us six months or longer we'd be more relaxed, but this was a shock," Mrs Koumaki, 76, said yesterday.
The $730,000 offered for the 718sq m property by Auckland Transport is above a CV of $640,000 made in June. But the couple say they would need at least $900,000 to build anything similar.
Mrs Koumaki said it was unfair of Auckland Transport to restrict its offer to a market price, as the threat of the new road over the neighbourhood had depressed property sales.
Her plight has been taken up by the Redoubt Ridge Environmental Action Group, which arranged for lawyer Dilki Rajapakse to write to Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy asking for "harassment" of the couple to stop.
Ms Rajapakse told Dr Levy the Koumakis had been "subjected to a barrage of telephone calls and [visits from] unwelcomed officials from Auckland Transport on the pretext of 'helping'".
"The bullying tactics and harassment of my clients by the officials must be stopped immediately," she wrote.
AT property chief Deborah Godinet promised to review the case while instructing her team to make no further direct contact with the couple.
Highway project director Theunis van Schalkwyk said an offer was made in good faith for the couple's property only because they had requested an early purchase due to their personal circumstances.
"There is no compulsion or pressure to sell - Auckland Transport will withdraw from the purchase if they no longer want to sell early," he said.
Although early purchases were being considered in a small number of cases, a route designation hearing by planning commissioners was not expected until late this year, and it may be up to six years before the rest of the required properties were bought.
• Auckland Transport is entitled to compulsorily acquire properties under the Public Works Act.
• If purchase agreements cannot be reached, compensation is determined by the Land Valuation Tribunal under the act, which requires that landowners be left no better or worse off.