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Statement from Port Marlborough – Eco World Lease Expiry

Port Marlborough is disappointed that the EcoWorld business has not vacated its port premises following the expiry of its lease, despite multiple offers from the Port to assist EcoWorld in meeting its end of lease obligations.

These offers have included a rent-free extension of the lease, funds to facilitate the rehoming of the animals, contracting of a senior EcoWorld staff member at Port Marlborough’s cost while animals are rehomed, and the waiving of Ecoworld’s end of Lease obligations in respect of the removal of improvements and reinstating the land. These offers have thus far been rejected and misrepresented by EcoWorld, including in its latest media release.

“All offers made by Port Marlborough to EcoWorld have been more generous than the contractual position requires of us, and have been made in good faith, to assist them at the end of the agreed lease term.

“We have acted in accordance with our values when negotiating with EcoWorld and will continue to do so. That is why we have offered substantial support to the business, including help to rehome wildlife.

“We are now looking forward to consulting with our community and mana whenua to work through the options for transforming this site in order to deliver better cultural, environmental and economic benefits for the region as a whole,” says Chief Executive Rhys Welbourn.
If EcoWorld continues to remain in the premises, it will be doing so without Port Marlborough’s permission, and therefore occupying the premises illegally.

Port Marlborough will now take steps to retake possession of the premises through court action in a manner that is sensitive to the welfare of the animals.

Port Marlborough has received some queries regarding the lease held by Ecoworld on the Picton foreshore. 

Given the nature of the statements being made by Ecoworld regarding the end of the lease, we have put together some FAQs in response in support of Port Marlborough’s media release, which we hope people will find helpful.

What is happening with the lease?

The lease of the land for the site on which the aquarium is situated, which was entered into in January 2011, provides for a “final expiry date” of 22 July 2021.  Accordingly, the lease ended at midnight on Thursday 22 July.

If Ecoworld remains in possession following the expiry of the lease, it will be in possession after the expiry of the lease, illegally and without Port Marlborough’s consent.

Why is the lease ending?

The lease was entered into in January 2011 and was for a 10 year period, with no right of renewal.  The terms of the lease also oblige Ecoworld to remove any improvements to the land and reinstate that land at its expense.

The lease is simply ending on the agreed terms.  Mr Reuhman is alleging that Port Marlborough agreed to renew the lease or to a new one.  That is not the case.  While there were discussions some time ago regarding a possible extension, the terms repeatedly sought by Mr Reuhman were unacceptable and fundamentally different to his existing lease.  Port Marlborough could not reasonably agree to them.

Did Port Marlborough offer to assist Ecoworld with the end of its lease?  Why does Port Marlborough believe it has made generous offers?

For more than three months Port Marlborough has made repeated offers to assist Ecoworld despite its strict lease terms.  First and foremost, and despite Ecoworld’s consistent media statements and interviews, Port Marlborough’s focus has been on the welfare of the marine life and animals and offering to assist Ecoworld with all rehoming over such reasonable time as Ecoworld needs to do this.  Port Marlborough has repeatedly offered to pay for the reasonable costs associated with rehoming the marine life and animals.

Secondly, and before Mr Reuhman went to the media, Port Marlborough had offered to relieve Ecoworld of its removal and reinstatement obligations and offered what Port Marlborough thought was a very generous cash offer.  Regrettably, Mr Reuhman has publicly mischaracterised these offers, including calling this payment a bribe.  We are very disappointed and concerned about this and the other statements he is making.  We believe we have acted outside the terms of the lease in a very generous way, consistent with Port Marlborough’s values and with sensitivity to Ecoworld’s lease expiry.

Will Port Marlborough be seizing possession at 12.01 am (as alleged by Mr Reuhman)? 

While Port Marlborough would be entitled to enter the premises and change the locks, it does not intend to do this if Ecoworld remains in occupation.  Port Marlborough will be instead seeking the assistance of the Courts to secure possession of its land back.  Port Marlborough wishes to deal with these issues as sensitively as possible, due to the importance of the welfare of the marine life and animals.

Is Port Marlborough aware that Ecoworld has taken its case to the High Court?

Yes, Port Marlborough was served with proceedings on 16 July 2021.  Those proceedings argue that Ecoworld is entitled to a renewal of its lease or a new lease.  Ecoworld had no such right of renewal nor was there any agreement for a new lease because of the fundamentally different terms Ecoworld repeatedly sought as part of the discontinued lease discussions.  Port Marlborough will therefore be defending the proceedings while at the same time seeking an order from the Court giving it possession of the land.

What are you going to do with the land?

We are looking forward to consulting with our community and mana whenua to work through the options for transforming this site to deliver better cultural, environmental, and economic benefits for the region as a whole.

 

Contact:

Connie Smith

Communications Manager | connie.smith@pmnz.co.nz | 027 404 6135