The pensioners believe they are being moved out of their beloved homes so the council can sell the remaining land for “a fortune”.
But Kaipara District Council says it is looking after the wellbeing of the pensioners by providing warm and dry new housing, and it has not decided what to do with the land yet.
The saga of what to do with the pensioner houses on Fagan Place in Mangawhai Heads goes back to 2019, when the council tried to get a community housing charity to provide units elsewhere.
The council was backed by ratepayers, who said in consultations it should have little or no role in community housing, despite the land being donated by Mr Fagan for pensioner housing.
But when the council was unable to get a community housing provider to take on the pensioner units, it considered either renovating the units or building new ones.
It has finally decided to build new pre-fabricated homes on the back part of the 1.5ha Fagan Place site, then demolish the existing units and create a master plan for the site.
Just 18 of the 24 units are now being used due to residents dying or moving on, and the numbers will continue to drop if residents move on before the new units are finalised.
One resident, Tina Rutler, is concerned the new units will be built in an area she describes as a “wetland” and, with Mangawhai already flood-prone, the council will have to spend more than it realises lifting the new units and draining the property.
“I’m not happy about it, but there’s no point in arguing because they will not change their mind, I don’t think. This council is determined to get this area clear.”
Rutler believed the council’s plan is to sell the rest of the land, which could be worth millions to a developer.
“In my head, this land is worth a lot of money – they could sell it privately and make a killing.”
The site has a current GV of $930,000 – double what it was 10 years ago – and could be worth more if subdivided.
Rutler said she liked the existing units because the residents were well spaced out.
The only positive about the new units is that she gets to stay in the same area, which is close to the beach and shops.
Another resident, Donna Ashby, said she did not want to leave her existing unit as the garden outside was done by her late husband, Howie.
Her unit was recently renovated after an overflowing tap flooded the kitchen, and she believed it showed how easily the units could be upgraded with a bit of money.
The council estimated it would cost $90,000 to $174,000 to bring each unit up to Healthy Homes standards – far higher than the estimated $7000 for a standard house – due to some units needing major work like new roofs.
Ashby questioned why the cost was so high and why the council had not kept on top of maintenance.
She was also concerned about the flooding on the site for the new units.
But mayor Craig Jepson said the new units are all about looking after existing tenants by providing them with warm, dry and modern homes.
Refurbishment was risky because the costs were unknown and the tenants would need to be housed elsewhere while the work was done, he said.
While the previous council might not have kept up with maintenance, Jepson said the new council had to make a decision about what could be done now.
The new 18 units are expected to cost $1.85m, he said. This will be funded through a loan paid off by the rental income.
When asked about the millions the council could potentially gain by selling the remaining land, Jepson said a decision has not been reached yet.
“I agree it’s an asset that’s valuable. Hopefully, we can make a good decision for the whole community.”
The council expects to start its procurement process for the new units by the end of October and award the contract by the end of the year.