83-year-old told to get out, with nowhere to go

83-year-old pensioner and former mechanic Walter Wallace was shocked to receive a notice on Friday he has two months to vacate his Woombye Caravan Park site.
83-year-old pensioner and former mechanic Walter Wallace was shocked to receive a notice on Friday he has two months to vacate his Woombye Caravan Park site.

SEVEN elderly residents of a Sunshine Coast caravan park have been given two months to get out and no alternative place to go.

A former tenant who has stepped in to provide them with support said the men, all aged pensioners, had taken the news badly with some suicidal.

"These are 80-year-old people who are no trouble to anyone,'' Yana Vonta said.

"They're so stressed, I said I would try to help. How ruthless can it be to force them out just before Christmas.''

The tenants, all on aged pensions, live in either motorhomes or caravans that haven't moved in cases for up to 16 years.

They occupy the upper level of the Woombye Caravan Park which sits off the left-hand side of the Nambour Connection Road north of the Big Pineapple.

The area is set to be redeveloped as one and two bedroom cabins.

Last Friday they were all delivered notices to vacate from Australian Tourist Park Management, which runs the park, Lazy Acres in Hervey Bay and Monte Carlo at Cannon Hill on behalf of aged-care provider Sundale.

The letters included the contact mobile number of ATPM's operations manager who is on leave, not contactable on the number and not due to return to work before October 20.

Nicklin MP Peter Wellington has assisted residents in the park since the mid 2000s. He said the decision to issue formal eviction notices before sitting down with residents and discussing alternatives represented a lack of compassion for, or understanding of, the people who would be affected.

Mr Wellington said given the age and vulnerability of those involved the matter should have been discussed in advance and alternatives offered.

"It's deplorable,'' he said. "It reflects on the fitness of those involved to hold senior management positions responsible for the elderly in our community."

The LNP State Government announced its intention to sell the parks in 2012 with an arrangement signed with Sundale in 2014.

At the time its CEO Glenn Bunney said the organisation was committed to providing affordable accommodation in the park and planned to make improvements.

Mr Bunney said he was as angry as residents were entitled to be that the contact number they were provided was for someone who was not available.

He said now the legislated Rental Tenancy Act notices had been served he was very happy for the organisation to sit down and discuss options with tenants.

"We couldn't do that until the advice was given,'' Mr Bunney said.

Walter Wallace, 83, is a 16-year resident of the caravan park and lives in a 30-foot caravan, with a hardstand, Gyprock-lined annexe.

"Where am I to go?'' he asked. "What am I going to do? I'm not a boy any more.''

The former mechanic said shifting his life would be problematic. The caravan is not registered, will require new tyres for its tandem axles and probably new bearings.

Life's tough enough already for the pensioner who has survived two heart attacks.

He pays $120-130 a week rent from a fortnightly pension of $880 a fortnight.

Mr Bunney said the notice given was what was required under legislation.

"Two months is in keeping with that,'' he said.

"We are happy to talk to the people and more than happy to have them as tenants of the cabins."

The one-bedroom cabins come with a kitchenette which contains a fridge, a convection oven and hotplate and rent for around $190 a week.

The Woombye park has 20 visitor sites, 57 permanent sites and 30 cabins available for permanent or holiday letting.

Mr Bunney said Sundale had secured full freehold title to the caravan park, subject to covenants, earlier this year.

The covenants require the site continue to operate as a caravan/mobile home park and to improve the level of affordable accommodation.

A spokesperson for Housing and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni said departmental staff would work with those affected to make sure secure accommodation was available.

He said the situation appeared to be another example of privatisation failing vulnerable people after an LNP Government sold the park in 2014.

Topics:  atpm editors picks eviction general-seniors-news glenn bunney lnp pensioners peter wellington sundale woombye caravan park

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