Whitby home owners devastated by slips
Devastating slips are making pricey Whitby homes worthless and leaving residents fearing for their safety.
Dozens of homes in south-east Whitby have experienced slips in the past six years, but a vicious storm and rainy weather two weeks ago has caused some of the worst damage yet.
Astronomer Pl resident Sandra Muirhead had her garden collapse for the third time since 2010, having already spent $ 40,000 building retaining walls, getting engineers’ advice and rebuilding her garden.
Ratepayers, too, have stumped up $42,000 since 2011 to fix stormwater and sewage pipes broken during slips on the street.
A retaining wall Mrs Muirhead completed last October is now half exposed, undermining the stability of the house she built in 2003. ‘‘I don’t feel very safe,’’ she said. The council was to blame for approving subdivisions on unstable land, Mrs Muirhead believed.
‘‘They signed off my house. Everything was done properly. They should never have let me build here,’’ she said. ‘‘ It should have never been designated land to be built on. I’ve got a house that’s worth nothing.’’
James and Melanie Taylor, of Helm Pl, had a 10-metre long crev- asse appear in their garden after the June 20 storm. The crack runs at one point under their deck to the corner of the house, pulling the house apart at the seams.
Their rear fence has dropped a full metre, and large holes have appeared around a retaining wall separating their lawn from a gully below.
Mrs Taylor said she feared for her three children’s safety in the days after the storm, before an engineer came to inspect the house. The family is negotiating with the Earthquake Commission over compensation.
Mrs Taylor’s parents, John and Anne Watts, are building a house next door and cannot get compensation from EQC, which insures only completed homes.
The Watts have had half their section slump more than a metre, with land at the bottom of the slip sitting under inches of water. Half a retaining wall behind their house came down in the slip, and sewage pipes in a gully behind both homes broke open.
James Taylor agreed Porirua City Council needed to keep a closer eye on developers and contractors who created the subdivision.
‘‘The council are the ones who effectively say yes or no to subdivision,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t think they’re making developers meet certain cri- teria that should be met.’’
Kapi-Mana News understands the slip-prone area lies between Endeavour Dr and Albatross Cl, land developed by Whitby Coastal Estates a decade ago.
David Bradford, owner of Whitby Coastal Estates, said his subdivisions met the council’s stringent standards, and any instability must have been caused after sections were sold.
‘‘The moment people start changing what we’ve built, we don’t and shouldn’t have any liability,’’ he said. ‘‘It really is nothing to do with subdivision. We have so many checks and standards.’’
Porirua City Council’s wastewater asset manager Joanna Saywell, an engineer, said the slips were caused by sodden clay slumping at the bottom of gullies and bringing down land above. Independent engineers paid to assess subdivisions were responsible for recommending sufficient drains on site, she said.
The only change the council would make to its processes would be banning stormwater and sewage pipes from being placed in unstable ‘‘ nobuild’’ land by developers, Mrs Saywell said.
The council would consider asking engineers’ insurers for compensation if their reports were not up to scratch, council chief executive Gary Simpson said.
Crevasse: A 10-metre long crack in James and Melanie Taylor’s back garden has undermined the stability of their house, and is big enough for their 3-year-old son Jesse to stand in.