A Wellington furniture-maker is being forced to pack up his tools, after the death of his longstanding benefactor.
Rick White secured his workshop in Leeds St 31 years ago, thanks to a handshake deal with former district court judge Ian Borrin.
But Borrin died in March, leaving the building as part of a $30 million bequest to create a charitable trust.
White, owner of Waywood Furniture, was paying $800 a month in rent, which never changed while Borrin was alive. The commercial monthly rate today would be about 10 times that.
So for 31 years he paid a peppercorn rental. And the owner has died, and now that no longer applies. What is unexpected or unusual about that?
He planned to carry on working there until he died, happy, over his workbench.
Then he should have approached Judge Borrin and asked him how much would it cost to buy the building.
He said he had a duty to the judge’s estate and the foundation to “maximise the revenue stream” from his properties. There was a prospective new tenant who had made an unconditional written offer to take a lease and redevelop the property.
Patterson said he spoke to Borrin before his death, and it was his wish that the redevelopment proceed. There was no written record of the judge’s wishes with regard to White’s workshop: “The judge wanted him to exit in a friendly manner, but also in a timely manner.”
White had now been given 3½ months to leave.
“He’s getting on a bit, he’s just trying to maximise the value of his tenancy. The world’s moved on, I’m afraid.
“We’re now in a commercial world, and I’m afraid Rick is a minor casualty.”
Nikau Foundation manager Louise Parkin said the group did not yet have Borrin’s assets in the trust, as they were still in probate.
She confirmed Borrin had the discretion to hold White’s rent unchanged for 31 years, and said the full commercial rate for the premises would be about $80,000 a year.
But at present, once rates and insurance were paid, the property was actually losing money.
“Strictly, it would be unethical for us to subsidise an individual business owner at the trust’s expense, for charitable purposes.”
If Judge Borrin wanted him to retain it for life, he would have said so in the will. If I was Mr White I’d be grateful for the 31 years of peppercorn rentals, rather than complaining they have ended.