The Problem with “the”: Word Creates Property Hook in Wellington Anarchist Fire Station

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The word ‘The’ created a problem in the ownership of an iconic building in central Wellington which was destroyed in a spectacular fire.

Ownership records show that 128 Abel Smith St is owned by “The Lebanese Company of New Zealand”, but also that it has a disclaimer filed on its title by the “Lebanese Company of New Zealand”. Above all, the latter does not begin with the word “the”.

The history of both companies is convoluted, dating back to the first Lebanese company in New Zealand in 1944, its eventual branches in New Zealand and its purchase in 1959 of 128 Abel Smith St.

Demolition work began at 128 Abel Smith St last week.

Ross Giblin / Stuff

Demolition work began at 128 Abel Smith St last week.

The property has not changed hands since, but property records show that on January 20, 2020, a correction was made to the owner’s name – adding the word “the” at the beginning, but not recording any change in ownership. beneficial ownership. It was basically a correction on the paperwork.

His most recent appraisal, in 2018, valued the land at $ 640,000 and the now destroyed house was worth $ 210,000.

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What is in dispute, and had been before the fire last week, is whether the Lebanese New Zealand Company that exists today is the same as the company that bought it in 1959 and whether it could therefore claim ownership.

For Serena Moran of the Lebanese Society of New Zealand, the whole debacle was a mystery, and she saw no argument: 128 Abel Smith St had always been part of the Lebanese community of Wellington, in which she had remained.

It is this community that has always paid the council fees, she said. Thing.

Information from the Register of Incorporated Companies shows that the Lebanese Company of Auckland was incorporated in 1976.

128 Abel Smith St, pictured here in 2011, became home to Wellington's <a class=anarchist movement.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Maarten Holl / Stuff

128 Abel Smith St, pictured here in 2011, became home to Wellington’s anarchist movement.

In 1994, it changed its name to Lebanese Society of Auckland, before another change in December 2016 to Lebanese Society of New Zealand. On May 30, 2020, he warned against the land title to 128 Abel Smith St.

A warning is a legal notice affixed to the title to the property, informing people that another party has an interest in the property.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese New Zealand Society was incorporated in 1991 and remains registered under that name today.

Neither entity was listed when ownership was transferred from official Richard John Phillips to the Lebanese New Zealand Company on June 23, 1959.

The historic building was the scene of a huge fire last Tuesday evening.

KEVIN STENT / Stuff

The historic building was the scene of a huge fire last Tuesday evening.

The Lebanese Society of New Zealand (the one without the “the”) chairman Gabriel Ataya argues that neither organization actually owns it. He confirmed that his organization had not paid a rate on them, and he understood that they had been paid like a “koha” by the groups that had lived there.

When the original buyer – the original Lebanese National Society – was liquidated in 1978, the registrar should have sold it, with half of the sale price going to a Lebanese government-controlled charity and the other half. half to a New Zealand charity. This directive came from the original incorporation of the company, said Ataya.

But something went wrong and it didn’t, he said.

Firefighters during the fire last Tuesday.

KEVIN STENT / Stuff

Firefighters during the fire last Tuesday.

The Wellington branch continued to rent it out to groups and it was only in recent years that the Lebanese Company realized what had happened and filed documents with the Registrar of Incorporated Companies to request a ruling on the ‘case, Ataya said.

The Registrar of Incorporated Companies reports to the Office of Companies and is overseen by the Ministry of Enterprise, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). MBIE has confirmed that it is considering a dispute over the names of the two companies.

The corrected record would show, Ataya said, that the entity that owned it no longer existed and therefore would have to revert to the original Lebanese company constitution and go to charity.

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