Once she decided retirement village life was for her, Sandra Pearce, 76, chose an Eastcliffe place in Auckland's Orākei, bought three years ago for $780,000.

"I thought I'd treat myself. I just loved looking out every single day to Rangitoto," said the keen bridge player. "But now it's all come crashing down. My place on Rukutai St is gone and I can't afford to replace it."

Pearce said she nearly had a nervous breakdown over issues with her home. Photo/Doug Sherring
Pearce said she nearly had a nervous breakdown over issues with her home. Photo/Doug Sherring

Other comparable villas in the area cost $1.2m, she is living in temporary accommodation paid for by the iwi, but with no idea of where she will eventually settle, fearing for her cat Sweet Pea's life if she moves into a proposed new block in a busier area with heavier traffic.

"I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown over all this," Pearce said, telling how the home she loved is now gone and her dreams are shattered.


She is one of 18 residents now in dispute with the iwi. The 18 own a licence to occupy some of the 33 Eastcliffe places where Ngāti Whātua Orākei was dogged with weather-tightness, structural, seismic and fire issues, revealed last year at the places overlooking Bastion Point.

So the iwi evacuated 34 residents, demolished all 33 places and now proposes a replacement four-level block in the village, home to more than 160 residents.

Roger Levie of the Home Owners & Buyers Association is representing the 18 residents who he says are in an impossible position: living in temporary accommodation, unable to afford to buy elsewhere, unhappy with offers made, their money still with the iwi and stuck.

"We have been attempting to negotiate a reasonable resolution to what is a very difficult and distressing situation for residents and their families," Levie said.

Six buildings have been demolished but notices to fix them were issued by Auckland Council as far back as 2010, "yet Ngāti Whātua continued to sell lifetime licences to elderly people without disclosing any of this," he said.

In response, Ngārimu Blair, a Ngāti Whātua director, said: "We have always owned up to the fact that this situation is extremely unfortunate and we have a responsibility to put it right. We have always acknowledged and been mindful of the impact on the affected residents. We have worked hard and as quickly as possible to find feasible solutions and, most importantly, from the outset we were open with you about the lack of Code Compliance Certificates and have never sought to hide this.

"We have given affected residents three options, including the opportunity to move to a superior brand new apartment at no extra cost that we consider to be full and fair, and reflect that this situation is not of the residents' making," Blair said.

Options available:

• "Internal transfer which enables them to move permanently to another residential apartment within the main building or into blocks 80 and 82, subject to availability. As existing Eastcliffe residents, they have been given the first right of refusal on any vacancies that arise in these buildings;

• "Buy-out which enables them to move on from Eastcliffe by terminating their occupational rights agreement and accessing their funds to make alternative living arrangements. Residents who choose this option receive the full in-going price they paid.

• "Apartment redevelopment within the grounds of Eastcliffe - a superior, brand new apartment for no additional cost," Blair said.

Temporary accommodation in the eastern bays suburbs was fully funded and the financial payout offer was "in line with the industry standard and has been carefully considered."

On legal issues, Blair said: "We are still refining advice. There is a long and complex history to this development which began in 1999 as a joint venture between NWO (supplying the land) and an external party responsible for the build and other aspects of the development. Those entities are long defunct and remedies open to NWO are still being explored."

None of the three options please Pearce or the 17 other licence owners.

"We're angry with the unfair options Ngāti Whātua have presented us with. We're here through no fault of our own," Pearce said.