Whitby home own­ers dev­as­tated by slips

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

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.

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