HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 576: 10 August 2011

Unit Titles curtail the loss of our land Tepaki on Unit Titiles
On Wednesday the Herald asked developer Tim Tepaki for an update on the sale of the Manuia Beach, Castaway Beach and Lagoon Lodges hotels.
Tepaki told the Herald he was informed by BTIB last week that the local person fronting for those interested in buying the Manuia Beach hotel, had applied for BTIB approval. He said he expected BTIB to advise them to firstly sort out the unit title issues. Tepaki said this will indicate to him that BTIB is “on to it”.
Tepaki said the buyers may have told the landowners that Manuia Beach was not a unit title property unlike Lagoon Lodges and Castaway Beach which are unit titled. Tepaki told the Herald that Manuia Beach was indeed unit titled and a body corporate had been formed under the Unit Titles Act to represent owners.
Tepaki said at issue is that the land lease is in his company’s name and approved for unit title development purpose, which is a matter reserved for Cook Islanders, meaning any prospective buyers will have to seek revocation through the court if they want to revert to an ordinary lease.
He said he is aware the front person has PR and has the same rights as Cook Islanders, but they still need revocation of the lease and for that they need landowners’ approval.
Tepaki said he is not a landowner and did not attend their meeting, but if they have consented to revocation then they may have forfeited:
1. Protection of land. Under unit titles land is common area and financiers of unit titles sitting on the land may have security over the unit they financed but not the land itself. This is to stop Cook Islanders losing their land to foreign ownership.
2. Ownership of the hotel on the expiry of the lease term. Under unit titles, the hotel goes back to the landowners on expiry of the lease term. This is to stop foreigners forcing perpetual renewal of the lease if landowners cannot afford to buy the hotel at the end of lease term and potentially causing them to lose their land for a very long period.
3. 2.5% payment of sale price to landowners. This is required under unit title developments, so as to stop past practices of foreigners developing properties and selling at an attractive profit.
Tepaki said under his lease for Manuia Beach the landowners are entitled to lease payments which they should protect. These are;
4. 1.5% of turnover for land lease payment.
5. $10,000 annual scholarship grants each year to enable landowners to upskill their own people for job opportunities at the hotel.
In response to comments from various sources that unit titles don’t work, Tepaki said that was wishful thinking on the part of those who would prey on Cook Islander’s lands and revenue generated by developments in this country.
Tepaki said such comments insulted the intelligence of lawmakers who unanimously passed the Unit Titles Act 2005 into law. His opinion is that banks are uncomfortable with unit titles as it denies them security over the land.
“In truth,” said Tepaki, “it curtails the loss of our lands under other old property laws and saves it for generations yet to come.”
He said this was the reason behind his sponsoring of the Unit Titles Bill and lawmakers enacting it.
Tepaki said during a previous court case he advised the Justice that Unit Titles was a global product and was not unique to the Cook Islands.
In overseas cities said Tepaki, apartment owners have access to buildings because of common ownership through a body corporate.
He said in time, due to land pressures and reduction of living space, Cook Islanders will have no option but to build upwards, in other words, build multi-floor apartments and units. These will be unit titled. That is the future said Tepaki.

- Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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