An elderly Horowhenua couple whose home of 35 years is likely to be in the way of a new expressway say they are living a nightmare.
Jane and Norman Wood, who are in their 70s, have been living under a cloud of uncertainty, the stress of which has had a particularly severe impact on Norman, who suffered a traumatic brain injury four years ago.
While painting a barn roof, Norman fell six metres onto concrete. He suffered severe head injuries and broken bones and was rushed to hospital.
Jane said he had been recovering fairly well, but he had a major setback when he fell from his bed, again hitting his head. This caised a rapid deterioration in his health and cognitive function.
After a number of gruelling months in which Jane had to abandon the couple's home business and spend every waking moment with her husband in hospital to avoid him becoming distressed at her absence, he was finally allowed home.
Norman had to learn to speak and feed himself, with the ongoing effects of his brain injury - including deafness, eyesight trouble and severe insomnia - affecting all aspects of the couple's lives.
They have been struggling to maintain a stable environment ever since — something that was again thrown into chaos by the notification two years ago that their home was probably in the proposed road's path.
"We've been in limbo, because about every three months they say, 'oh in three months' time we'll know where [the road's] going," Jane said.
"It has caused a great deal of stress to my husband and in turn to me."
Jane said her husband's health and mental state has deteriorated rapidly as he has come to understood he may have to leave the North Manakau Rd property where the couple have built their lives over more than three decades.
The symptoms of deterioration were of such concern that Jane, who is her husband's sole caregiver, applied in desperation for an early buyout of their property by the Crown, to enable them to live elsewhere with more stability.
The buyout was approved and negotiations are under way, but Jane said they believed agreeing to sell early automatically categorised them as "willing sellers", which they were not.
She said this meant they would miss out on considerable compensation amounts, including a potential payment of up to $50,000 because the affected property is their place of residence, as well as relocation costs.
With outbuildings full of equipment formerly used in their now-suspended wholesale art business, the cost to relocate would be considerable.
Living solely on the ACC payments Jane received as her husband's fulltime carer, and their pensions, she has used the last of the couple's savings to put a deposit on another property, in Hawke's Bay.
"I have looked and looked to try and find something that is suitable locally, but there isn't anything — not at the price I can afford, so I've had to go out of the area — not willingly.
"I had to do something in a hurry to put my husband's mind at rest, but this is still causing him a great deal of distress. It's having a terrible effect on him and on me."
The couple's retirement nest egg was to have been the proceeds of selling a section they had subdivided off their property with a house relocated on to it. This now can't proceed, so the extra compensation amount was very important, Jane said.
An NZ Transport Agency property information sheet dated February 2018, stated purchases of affected properties would be carried out at market value based on registered valuations.
It also stated some owners may also be eligible for additional compensation "of up to $50,000, depending on whether there is a dwelling on their property that will need to be acquired and whether that dwelling is used as their principal place of residence".
In addition to the market value of a property, according to the information sheet, reasonable legal and valuation fees and moving costs will be reimbursed.
Jane said it was their understanding they would be ineligible for these costs due to selling their property early.
NZTA's director of regional relationships Emma Speight said that as no decision had been made on the preferred expressway route and it is not yet certain which properties would be required, anyone wanting to sell now would typically be regarded as a "willing seller" under the Public Works Act 1981 (PWA).
"This means they are not entitled to reimbursement of costs under section 66 [of the] PWA or additional compensation under section 72 [of the] PWA," she said.
"In each instance, this will be discussed with Land Information New Zealand, the statutory decision maker under the PWA, to confirm that they agree. We understand that many people living in properties affected by the options for the Otaki to north of Levin project may be experiencing stress and frustration.
"That's why the NZ Transport Agency has been working closely with a number of potentially affected property owners ... including Mr and Mrs Wood, to minimise stress and disruption as best we can," Speight said.
She said NZTA was in active negotiations with several potentially affected property owners and could not comment on the details, but that it was "working hard to get the best possible solution in each case".