Mullum woman battles Govt to save home and history
THE 120-year-old Mullumbimby railway gatekeeper's house has been Lyn Oakley's family home for more than 50 years, but in a bizarre property dispute with Transport NSW she is now fighting to stop the historic home from being demolished and her family made homeless.
The house on Argyle Street, built in 1893, was purchased by her railway worker father, Albert McLean, in 1962 for 550 pounds from another railway worker on the understanding the land would also be sold to him by NSW State Railway.
However, while the house sale went ahead, the land sale never happened, and instead Mr McLean entered a peppercorn lease arrangement with the NSW State Railway (as it was known then) for eight shillings a year.
That rent has always stayed on a peppercorn scale, until Ms Oakley's father died in 2011 and arrangements were made to finalise his estate.
After the land was valued, Ms Oakley was notified her rent would increase from $550 to 10% of its land valuation, currently estimated at $185,000.
"I'm a low-income earner. I wouldn't even make more than $18,500 a year," Ms Oakley, 54, said.
If she does not agree to take up a new lease by March 2014, the house will have to be removed or demolished, Ms Oakley has been told.
"On top of the rent, I pay all the land taxes and council rates, and I maintain the land," she said.
Ms Oakley's son, John Oakley, 33, said his mother was desperate for the department to show compassion and provide a long-term solution that would allow the home to remain in the family through to the next generation.
"This is our family home. Mum grew up here and so did I," Mr Oakley said.
"Mum can't finish anything else of Pop's estate while this drags on."
"There is no way we could transport the house off the land - it's still in its original condition, with brick fireplaces in every room.
"This house and the stationmaster's cottage across the road are the last historic parts of the railway in Mullumbimby."
At the time of going to press, The Northern Star was unable to get comment from TfNSW due to the public holiday.