Home owners stand their ground
JUDY Tucker bought her modest creekfront home in the Hastings Point Holiday Village nine years ago on the understanding that it would be hers for life.
Even when the park was sold to developers, she said she was assured the residents would be looked after.
But a development application approved in May 2007 allowed for a change of use for the site, permitting the development of a retirement community, conditional upon the eventual closure of the holiday park.
Now Judy, 62, and the mainly elderly occupants of five other park homes are threatened with homelessness.
Their once-attractive living environment has been turned into a run-down ghetto, hidden behind the cluster of smart new Hastings Point Retirement Community units on the Tweed Coast Rd.
Judy says the trouble began in 2011 when, with half of the retirement village project completed, the site was sold again, to Queensland company TriCare, which specialises in residential developments for seniors. TriCare appointed an outside manager, KDH Management, to look after the park, at which point, Judy said, "the wheels fell off".
"We lost our maintenance man and the lawns and trees were allowed to grow wild."
Problems with street lighting have meant the remaining residents are prisoners in their own homes at night.
They are shut out of the independent housing complex by a large fence and now live amid rat-infested derelict houses, empty lots, garden waste and a rugged roadway.
"It's the 21st century but we are living in Third World conditions," Judy said, and treated like "trailer trash and second-class citizens".
The neglect of their surroundings is aimed at forcing them to move away, Judy said, so TriCare can level their homes and plant trees in a 50m buffer zone along the creek - another condition of the DA.
But none of the six house-holds can afford to move and, having bought their homes and paid rent for as long as 23 years, they don't see why they should.
TriCare won the right to have them gone by September 2016 through actions in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), which also set the compensation levels.
The residents say the money they are being offered to move is absurdly small and the value put upon their homes treats them as "derelict", a condition caused by the manager's neglect.
"But," said TriCare director Peter O'Shea, "when we bought the park, it was worse. The residents will say it wasn't, but it was."
And there had been no rental increase for three years, he said.
The amount of compensation TriCare is required to pay was decided by NCAT "in accordance with relevant legislation".
"All these matters are complex and they were considered by the Tribunal in significant detail, so any idea that we are trying to push these people out by some underhand behaviour is just plain wrong.
"We had to go through the legal process because ultimately the remaining residents were never going to move out and we've got a DA that says to satisfy the conditions of this approval you have to do this work, which includes regenerating the waterfront.
"There was no other alternative, other than saying 'Okay, we're not going to develop the retirement village until the last of these people has passed away. One resident is about 40, so that would mean a delay of 30 years or more."
Among those who face homelessness are Beryl Anderson and her 92-year-old mother, who have called the park home for more than 14 years, and park veterans Kevin and Lorraine Byng. Kevin has Alzheimer's and Lorraine has suffered a heart attack, conditions they allege have been worsened by TriCare's tactics.
The stress of the situation has already pushed out many ailing elderly, but the remaining residents, although frightened, are fighting mad.
"We're not going to lay down and play dead. This is affecting all of our health but we're not giving up," said Ms Tucker.
"At no stage have we opposed the retirement village, because we thought it would be good for the area."
Mr Byng said: "We are not trailer trash and it is not our choice to move.
"We haven't done anything wrong. We had a home when we came here and we want a home when we leave."
Mr O'Shea said his company had communicated that it would like to work with the remaining residents to assist them to find alternate accommodation.
"I'm happy to talk to any of them at any time.
"We do not consider the situation as dire as expressed by the residents, subject to them considering a range of alternate housing options and accepting the closure of the park."
TriCare may have the law on its side, but this is a moral issue, Ms Tucker said, "with six families being put onto the street".