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Staying where ‘Westies’ love best

With friends and family close at hand, a local attraction created in their own backyard and a cold beer always ready and waiting at the local RSA, Leonard Jones and his partner Janet Turner had no plans to leave the community they love – thanks to a Heartland Bank mortgage, they haven’t had to.

A keen gardener and well-known face at the local RSA, Leonard has spent the majority of his life in West Auckland and was not prepared to leave the couple’s villa-style home, which sits on a 2.4 acre lifestyle block they bought 27 years ago.

“I absolutely love it out here,” says Leonard. “We’re surrounded by native bush, it’s so peaceful away from the city and we have a beautiful flower garden that I enjoy looking after.”

His connections to the property run deeper than that – he’s spent more than a decade creating a replica 1950s general store in the couple’s barn, complete with goods he’s collected on his travels throughout New Zealand and Australia. Keen to share his passion for antiques, Leonard has made the nostalgic attraction open to the public, and it’s proved to be a small boon for the community over the years, attracting several visitors a month.

“It’s quite popular with retirement villages, historical societies and classic car clubs – I had more than 60 people through once!”

Clubs and societies aren’t the only ones who enjoy visiting the property – Leonard and Janet have “a tribe of grandchildren” on both sides, and with most living nearby, family visits are fun and frequent.

When he isn’t gardening, entertaining or visiting with family, Leonard enjoys spending time with his mates at the local RSA.

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“I’ve got a lot of good friends down there,” he says. “I’ve been a member for 17 years and there’s always a beer on the bar and an empty seat waiting for me when I visit. I really enjoy that community feel.”

Janet and Leonard came close to having to leave it all behind them, when motor neurons disease forced Leonard to retire early, making it difficult to make ends meet financially.

“I was a maintenance engineer at Mainfreight for more than 37 years and they kept me on as long as they could,” says the 69-year-old. “Janet took redundancy to look after me soon after, and then we really began to struggle with monthly bills.”

Keen to stay where they feel they belong, Leonard and Janet decided to look into getting a reverse mortgage with Heartland Bank.

“We spoke to Luke Meintjes from Heartland Bank about what was involved and he was fabulous at explaining everything,” says Leonard. “We decided to take out a reverse mortgage to pay off the amount remaining on our mortgage, carry out some small renovations and cover the rates.”

It was also used to take care of an unexpected surprise – a poorly drawn boundary, which meant they had to purchase 202m2 of land to retain their property rights.

“We’re relieved to have it sorted,” says Leonard. “It meant that the process took longer than anticipated, but Luke supported us the whole way through and it’s comforting to know we can stay here as long as we’re able.

“Life is generally good now, which is nice. I still fall over a lot because of the motor neurons disease, but someone always picks me up – it’s part of life. We’re grateful to Heartland Bank for being part of that.”

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