The Parkin Bach family in Marlborough Sounds. Photo / Supplied
The bonds that bind the Bach family, built by the work of love, were severed by a long brawl that, according to one family member, caused “years of suffering.”
“It was an absolute ruin. It’s a place we loved to go because it was all about the family,” she said of the common harbor in the sometimes serene but often bustling corner of Marlborough Sounds.
The 49-hectare property in Oyster Bay, in the Sounds section known as Cruzil Harbor, was designed by Maurice and Rosalie Parkins along with three sons, Rice, Steve and Grant.
Rosalie died in 1999, unfortunately shortly after Bach was over, and Morris in 2010, after which the three brothers received an equal share in the property.
It became something their father would never have wanted, Steve told Open Justice. The stress was such that he lost his teeth and literally wiped them.
“I scared them completely,” he said of the reasons the dentist had to remove them.
At the heart of the controversy was Grant’s desire for greater interest in property. He claimed to have contributed more than his brothers to his development. He did not challenge the will, but wanted recognition, he owned a larger share of the cost of improvements over the years.
The application for the district court to recognize his lawsuit failed, and now the appeal to the Supreme Court has also failed.
Grant said that while the break with his brothers is now irreparable, he planned to continue the fight.
“I don’t want to say more, but yes, it was very difficult – there is no going back,” he told Open Justice.
Maurice Parkins was 46 when he bought the property in 1990. It was mostly bare land in the part of the Sounds that was on a boat from Nelson, or a long drive along winding, steep gravel roads that were partially submerged right down to the sea.
Maurice, Rosalie, and their three sons always called the estate a “family bach” where Maurice spent most of his free time. He was a builder, everyone, including his sons, considered him a low-key man. He was an extremely resourceful and very hard and dedicated worker, Judge Handal said in a High Court ruling last month.
“From the evidence it is clear that Morris was very determined to develop his bach family property, which he loved, while using the many and varied skills he had.”
He worked tirelessly for years to develop the property and the two houses ended up on it, so it was kept and used for the whole family. Since 1990, he has cleared the land, built fences and structures for inventory, and a large barn before preparing the site for the first house. Morris and his sons worked full time, so working on the property was a weekend project. It took six years to build the house.
Grant was an engineer, Rhys a builder, and Steve a plumber. In addition to the practical skills they contributed to property development, they also took advantage of the fishing and hunting opportunities offered by the bay.
In 2003, Morris, who was retired at the time, moved the old hospital building into ownership for use as a second home. In 2008, his health deteriorated and he was treated. Rice took over the management of his father’s affairs. He, Grant and Steve divided the costs into three ways of managing the property, including fares, insurance, private tolls and mooring tolls.
Morris died in 2010 without returning to Sounds since he came into custody. Although Grant acknowledged that everyone has equal shares in the estate, he argued that because he and their father had developed property together in previous years, he was thus entitled to half the cost of the improvements over time.
“Because of his contribution and reasonable expectations, he maintains the institutional constructive trust that has emerged in relation to the property he is asking to be recognized in court,” Judge Handal said.
An example of constructive trust may be when a person is defined by law as the nominal owner of property for the benefit of others.
Steve and Rhys admitted that Grant put in more work than they did early, but later their contribution exceeded it. They also used their trading experience, their own equipment and gear, and access to materials in the further development of the property. They also challenged Grant’s claim that he made a direct financial contribution to real estate development.
Judge Handal said that in order to build constructive trust, a candidate needs to establish more than just contributions to the relevant asset.
“Property was considered by all to be‘ family bach ’. It was “Bach Morris” – his passion, and what he worked on most of his free time.
“It was passed on to Maurice in his will (unchanged for 30 years when he died) to three of his boys in equal shares for further use by them and the next generation – his respective grandchildren.”
Judge Handal said the finding made in the district court to deny Grant’s claim was correct. The next appeal to the High Court failed for a number of reasons.
The family said the grief was such that some of them, including Grant, had not visited for years.
They said it left an “unpleasant aftertaste” and all they wanted was to remember that their mom and dad were there.
“We know what our father wanted, and we’re fighting for it,” Steve said.