Sunday, October 31, 2010

[pima.nius] King of Tonga's property sale hushed

12:47 PM |

King of Tonga's property sale hushed

Last updated 21:36 29/10/2010

Tenders have closed for potential buyers of the King of Tonga's Auckland residence, but the solicitor dealing with the sale is refusing to say how much interest there is in the house.

Tenders for Atalanga, the 1.6ha estate in St Andrews Road, Epsom, closed at 4pm yesterday, though it is subject to a caveat by some Tongan campaigners.

When contacted by NZPA today, Bayleys Real Estate said all media inquiries were being directed to solicitor Nick Fisher.

But when Mr Fisher was asked about buyer interest in the property, he asked a number of questions about the reporter's finances before saying "I don't need to discuss the King's personal business, thank you very much" and hung up the phone.

Some lawyers in Tonga dispute whether the sale is solely the King's business, saying taxpayers had contributed to its upkeep and may in fact own the property.

Speaking from Tonga, Auckland-based lawyer Sione Fonua yesterday said no documents had been produced which proved the late Queen Salote bought the house with her own money rather than public funds.

"If it was a personal property of the royal family then they can dispose of it as they please, as the constitution of Tonga states.

"However, the constitution also states that if the property was built by the government of Tonga then it will go to his heirs and successors so he cannot dispose of the property as he pleases."

Mr Fonua said today that a caveat on the house would remain in place until the end of next week.

Another Tongan lawyer, Joel Fotu, earlier told NZPA that Tongan taxpayers were paying the annual $28,000 bill for the property's upkeep.

Both Queen Salote and her son King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV spent their last days at the property.

Bayleys said on its website that the estate could be used for a prime residence or two, residential apartments, a retirement village or for a community group. 

pacific islands media association
aotearoa, new zealand
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