Melita Honey Farm at Chudleigh has been saved by an anonymous payment of council rates, but the family’s home remains unpaid and will go to auction.
Meander Valley mayor Craig Perkins confirmed on Thursday that the Beerepoot family had not settled the $9332 debt for three properties at Chudleigh and Mole Creek.
However, he said an anonymous payment had been made for the two adjacent properties that made up the honey farm shop.
Owner Fanny Beerepoot declined to comment on the unpaid rates and the anonymous payment, but said “we’re here, aren’t we”, when asked if the shop would remain open.
Cr Perkins said the family refused to pay rates because they believed the land was owned by “the Heavenly Father” and it was a matter between the council and God.
“So, unless there’s a change of heart and they come to a new realisation and hopefully find some new text within the bible that allows them to pay rates, I fear we’ll be in the same position in three or so years time,” he said.
In March, the council gave the family three months notice of its intent to sell the property in order to recover the debt owed. The deadline was Wednesday.
“We understand [the payment for the shop rates] was an anonymous source that understands the value of that business to the Chudleigh community and wanted to make sure the doors remained open to keep the tourists coming through,” Cr Perkins said.
“In terms of the commercial property, we won’t continue to pursue that since it’s almost all been paid but I would say that it doesn’t preclude them from paying in the future and we still encourage them to pay because in three years time, we don’t want to be in the same place where there are three years of rates unpaid and we have to begin proceeds again.”
However, he said there was nothing the council could do to avoid the situation from arising again.
“Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do except use the legislative arrangements that are there for us when there are unpaid rates, which is to give a notice of intent to sell a property and then commence that process.”
The council will now hire a real estate agent and the house will go to auction, unless payment is received in the meantime.
Cr Perkins said the proceeds from the sale would go to the family after the council recovered its debt for unpaid rates.
“They’ll then be able to repurchase and move into another house and hopefully pay rates,” he said.
‘I hope they come to their senses and pay their house rates’
Chudleigh locals say the community would be devastated to lose Melita Honey Farm and the Beerepoot family from the area.
A resident, who asked not to be named, said the business was extremely beneficial.
“We would hate to lose them from the village,” she said. “They’re great community people and they’re a great addition to the village.”
She said community members had offered to help pay the rates a long time ago when the issue first arose.
“Everybody would have helped, but it’s not the money, it’s a religious thing. I’m glad someone paid the rates for the shop, but I hope they come to their senses and pay their house rates.”
Locals said the honey business drew huge numbers to the area.
“They bring bus loads here, and they’re lovely people. They help at community working bees and we really don’t want them to go.”