A landlord is furious at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for protecting a foreign diplomat who owes $20,000 in rent and damage to the property.
The Tenancy Tribunal ruled in favour of Wellington landlords Matthew Ryan and Rebecca Van Den Bos' after they sought reparations from a former tenant, European Union first secretary and deputy head of mission Eva Tvarozkova.
But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has now intervened, saying the proceeding should never have taken place because Tvarozkova has diplomatic immunity.
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MFAT's lawyers have sought a rehearing, and their appeal will be heard by the tribunal next month.
Ryan said MFAT's intervention was deeply unfair, and he was now unsure whether he would get repaid for his losses on the Karaka Bays rental.
"I'm really disappointed," he told Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper. "If [MFAT] felt that they had a legitimate case then they should have turned up to the first tribunal hearing.
"I just don't feel like it's cricket. For them to step in and for her to hide behind some sort of immunity."
Ryan said he had expected a high-ranking diplomat to be a reliable tenant.
"I thought I had the security of a three-year tenure but they left [after eight months] with rent arrears, they caused some damage to the property before they left, gave me no notice of leaving.
"And so effectively I was left high and dry. I thought the Tenancy Act would at least allow me to recover the rental shortfall and the damage.
"And so it's pretty disappointing to hear that when you lease to a diplomat you effectively have none of the provisions that you would normally have it [it were] a normal member of the community."
A spokeswoman for the EU mission said it would not comment on the matter.
A tribunal ruling released last month said the diplomat had rented the "high quality" property, which is valued at $1.5 million, for $1500 a week. She had a fixed-term lease until September but left the property early.
The landlords successfully applied to get back the unpaid rent until the house was tenanted again – a total of $17,357. They also successfully applied for the costs of damage to blinds and an internal lift, and the cost of an alarm callout when the tenant was overseas.
Tvarozkova did not turn up to the hearing.
MFAT's lawyers appealed the decision and asked for a rehearing, the tribunal's report said.
"MFAT seeks the order to be set aside on the basis that the proceeding should have not commenced, and no decision issued against the tenant, on the basis that she is a diplomat, and immune from any action in a civil proceeding in New Zealand."
Ryan said MFAT's response set a poor precedent.
"It's concerning for any landlord who looks at renting a property to a diplomat," he said.
"They could effectively do anything they want to your house, they could use it as a P house, they could carry on with illegal activities and you'd have no redress because they'd hide behind some sort of diplomatic immunity."
According to Tvarozkova's CV, posted online, she is from Slovakia and has been posted in New Zealand since 2014.
It says she speaks fluent English, German, French and Czech, and has a good knowledge of Russian.
She joined the EU in 2008. Before arriving in Wellington, she was political coordinator for relations with New Zealand and Australia in the European External Action Service HQ in Brussels.
Her CV lists her as the negotiations coordinator for the "Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation between the EU and New Zealand".
She made headlines in 2016 with comments that EU farmers could not be blamed for low farmgate milk prices in New Zealand.
She rejected suggestions that a decline in dairy prices in New Zealand at the time was a result ofsubsidies paid to EU farmers.
Tvarozkova told Rural News the oversupply of milk in the global market had several causes.
New Zealand was a small economy easily affected by external shocks or changes in global markets.
But Tvarozkova said the biggest driver of oversupply was the effective Russian ban on EU and other western countries' dairy products.
"All dairy production that was supposed to go to Russia needs to go somewhere else. Ultimately this creates oversupply in the global market, given that Russian is a significant importer of dairy," she told Rural News.