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A squatter is challenging New Zealand’s ownership of a property worth one million dollars. He claims it was abandoned by the New Zealand council.
Kerre Reddy, 60, is using an archiac law to contest the ownership of the 29.5421 hectare Mt Lees Reserve near Feilding in Manawatū.
Reddy, who shared the property for more then two years with another person made an “allodial claim” to the district council in August.
It refers to an old British commonlaw that states that a person can possess abandoned properties by erecting flags or planting crops there.
Reddy, originally from Napier, believed the Manawatū District Council abandoned the property when its bed and breakfast operation closed in early 2020.
“We would be happy for them to take our case to court, but they won’t. They know we will win, and it’ll set a precedent,” she told Stuff.
Few squatters have successfully become the legal owners of property in New Zealand, but they followed the only process that was recognised in New Zealand law, which included 20 consistent years of occupation and an application to the Government.
Mark Bennett, Victoria University of Wellington’s senior lecturer in law, was unable to comment. However, his knowledge of the law would suggest that Reddy wasn’t on solid ground.
He stated that common law was an historical tradition that had been superseded and replaced by statute law. The feudal system was the source for the term “allodial”, which translates to “land that isn’t subject to a Lord”.
This idea was not introduced to New Zealand by British colonials, but was rather established by the Crown as the sole owner of all New Zealand land.
Bennett claimed that years earlier, the law committee had concluded it was foolish to repeal outdated common laws. “We have the Land Transfer Act now,” Bennett said.
“Whoever has a registered title has a best claim.”
Professor Richard Boast from Victoria University of Wellington’s Law Faculty stated that allodial was a completely foreign concept to New Zealand land laws.
“The Manawatū is not in Scotland, to the best of my knowledge.”
In a statement to Stuff, Manawatū District Council chief executive Shayne Harris, said Mt Lees Reserve had not been abandoned, but had been vacant since February 2020 due to the bed and breakfast being “no longer financially viable”.
Other uses were also being considered for the homestead.
According to Oneroof.co.nz, the estate was worth $1.1million in 2019. In the past year, the median Manawatū property value has increased by 36 per cent.
Harris claimed that although the council has not taken legal action against the squatters for their illegal trespassing, “given that they have left, and we’re now in lockdown… if they were to return then that would also be considered.”
Stuff understands there has been multiple interactions between police and council staff with the squatters.
A spokesperson for police stated that they did not have any information, but confirmed that there had been no arrests.
Reddy believed that Reddy was correct because of the police’s inability to physically remove them.
She stated that she had not been to the homestead, but had stayed at the shelters open to the public.
Reddy claimed that she was taking action for a six-member family in need of somewhere to stay.
The reserve, which is managed by the council, can be accessed by all. It includes freedom camping sites, as well as an unlocked cooking area and a public bathroom. A walking trail is available for the public.
An anonymous man claimed that he tried to use the track on August 10 with his toddler. Reddy’s male companion told them that they were trespassing. Reddy then followed the pair out of the property.
He said it was scary. He claimed that he didn’t call police because of a previous interaction with police and squatters and “nothing” happened.