Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Wrecking-ball answer to leaky home despair

Townhouse blocks so rotten owners' only option is to tear them down and start again.

This building on Hobson St is currently under repair for alleged leaky problems.  Photo / Chris Gorman
This building on Hobson St is currently under repair for alleged leaky problems. Photo / Chris Gorman

Total demolition of huge leaky Auckland townhouse blocks is being proposed by desperate homeowners whose properties are so rotten they are beyond repair.

Wrecking balls and diggers could eventually tear the affected places down in what one industry organisation sees as the only reasonable response to a situation so dire that rebuilding is the sole option.

Home Owners and Buyers Association chief executive Roger Levie said discussions were being held over hundreds of properties so rotten that they were beyond repair but on increasingly valuable sites.

It comes as one of the authors of a 2002 report which exposed the scale of the $22 billion leaky building scandal said "systemic failures" remained, 10 years on.

Hunn Report co-author David Kernohan said the building industry still had enormous problems and the rotting homes problem still existed.

"The industry remains highly competitive, disparate in structure and lacking in formal accountability.

This above all needs to be fixed," he says in a Herald opinion piece today.

The worst-affected complexes - which contain 50 to 100 townhouses - are in Onehunga, Ellerslie, West Auckland and Albany.

Mr Levie said the plan was to demolish the ones beyond repair and use the valuable land to re-house owners in more intensive complexes of a much higher standard.

"That would be the right answer for a lot of the complexes and if the Government and the Auckland Council were being creative, they would look at this and see the need to support the scheme," said Mr Levie, whose organisation was formed to help people resolve and avoid rotting homes problems.

None of the negotiations was at a stage where demolition was imminent, but he was hopeful.


When the sites were developed about 15 years ago they were considered a long way from the city centre, but now, with better bus and train connections and higher building standards, the land had become much more valuable and fixing the buildings would be uneconomic.

Mr Kernohan said building inspectors did not need special qualifications, and developers remained fixated on maximum return for minimum outlay.

Architects and engineers had stepped away from on-site supervisory roles, and no one took overall responsibility for a project - a finding of the Hunn Report released in 2002.

The Hunn Report was the first major investigation into the leaky building scandal, later estimated by the PwC consultancy to need $11.3 billion to $23 billion to fix.

Mr Levie backed Mr Kernohan, saying not only were owners with rotting homes running out of time, but new leaky houses were being built.

About a third of the 15,000 new dwellings put up nationally each year required some repairs, and systems set up to solve the problem had been a dismal failure.

"There's no proactive activity from councils or the Government department handling this to encourage people to act before the 10-year limitation [on claims to the Crown and councils] expires," Mr Levie said.

Thousands of houses each year passed the deadline, which meant they did not qualify for the state/territorial authority/owner 50:25:25 financial assistance package.

"And we're unfortunately still building houses that leak. If you look at industry statistics from the building sector, about 30 per cent of new homes require rework," he said.

On March 1, new building work rules took effect, introducing tighter regulations on structural integrity and weathertightness in houses and small-to-medium-sized apartment buildings.

By August 31, owners of 2389 Auckland City properties had registered claims for leaky buildings, according to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment's Weathertight Homes Resolution Service.

- NZ Herald

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