The residents of 29 waterfront properties at Little Waihi in Bay of Plenty have been told by their Te Arawa landlords to demolish their homes.
A management company acting for Te Arawa Lakes Trust has served written notice on tenants who own the dwellings but not the land. The company says septic tanks are damaging the estuary at the tiny settlement near Maketu, east of Te Puke.
One of those affected, Jack Elsworth, says the letter suggests pollution from septic tanks is damaging the nearby estuary, but he feels the situation is no worse than 20 years ago.
No one has ever died from eating pipi or flounder taken from the estuary, says Mr Elsworth, who thinks the leases are being terminated so that the iwi landowners can develop the site.
He says more than 100 people may lose everything they own, as the iwi wants the land cleared of buildings, fences and trees by the end of next April.
Mr Elsworth says many in Little Waihi are pensioners, while others are disabled or single mothers, and none can afford a Rotorua townhouse.