Dream home now rubble

By DOUG LAING


'Perfect buy' turned sour

A Napier couple yesterday saw their retirement dream home collapse in a heap of rubble, after years of leaky home anguish.

The Greenmeadows house cost more than $450,000 in 2003 when Devon and Estelle Lee moved to Napier after about 20 years on the Hufflee vineyard they established at Bridge Pa.

But a $416,000 award by the Watertight Homes Tribunal and paid by city council insurers was nowhere enough to cover the costs, said 76-year-old Mr Lee yesterday, as he watched the machinery crunch through the property, a back section bordering Anderson Park.

The two-storey home had been the "perfect" buy for the couple. For eight months, they enjoyed living in their house - and then the nightmare began.

Fuller reports uncovered multiple frailties of leaks and rot but spread to the quality of work in the construction, something which even shocked Mr Lee, who before taking on the vineyard had spent 30 years in the building trade, including being a building inspector for the Hastings City Council.

In a decision in March 2010, the Tribunal determined the Napier City Council 20 per cent liable, but levelled the rest of the blame on the builder.

The council through its insurers was directed to pay the total, with the option of seeking the 80 per cent redress from the builder, with the house and four others unfinished, 12-staff out of work and debts reported to total almost $1 million.

The builder retained an interest through trust links, before the house was sold initially to a Waipukurau couple, and then Mr and Mrs Lee.

As contractors Mantell-Harding pulled down the house, Mr Lee spoke with an air of relief as he said not even the trauma and stress could drive them from the property.

"We bought this to retire to," he said.

"It was perfect, there's so much happening on the park. We don't want to go anywhere else."

He conceded they had thought about moving, but they didn't want to create another problem for someone else, and stomached what was also a health risk until a recent move into a house rented nearby from where they can watch the next developments.

"It's starting to take the pressure off," he said.

"We can get a decent night's sleep"

Taradale company Piper Construction have taken the rehousing in hand, and plan to have them in a new home in five months. It would take 2-3 days to clear the site, with a little help from Mr Lee, salvaging some lengths of timber for use as painters' planks.

"And across the road," he noted, "is The Cellar Door."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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