Property editor of the NZ Herald

Leaky building experts get $22.7m

Brewer slams council over 'the latest gravy train industry' as he takes his complaints to Chief Ombudsman

Cameron Brewer. Photo / NZ Herald
Cameron Brewer. Photo / NZ Herald

Auckland Council paid $22.7 million to leaky building lawyers and experts in the past two years, drawing fire from one councillor for what he called a huge waste.

Cameron Brewer lodged an official inquiry to discover how much the council has spent lately to defend itself against disputes with owners of leaky buildings.

Nicole Miell, the council's official information adviser, told him that between November 2010 and June 12 this year, $15.6 million was paid to lawyers and $7.1 million to experts, including quantity surveyors, building surveyors, valuers, architects and others. She also revealed how the council had provided $395.7 million for leaky building claims but said this might drop to $343 million once further actuarial analysis was undertaken and a review was completed.

Mr Brewer was unhappy about the information he got and decried the numbers but said he wanted to know which lawyers and experts got the $22.7 million.

"This shows that the leaky home crisis is, sadly, the latest gravy train industry. Ratepayers deserve to see much less lining the pockets of lawyers and experts. Ratepayers will be disgusted with these huge council costs."

Mr Brewer has complained to Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem about information being withheld, saying he wants the names of the people being paid.

He lodged his inquiry under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, asking how much the council had spent managing and settling claims since the Super City came into being and what the future looked like in terms of budget, planning and numbers of claims still to be resolved.

Ms Miell said provision had been made in the long-term plan for weathertight claims of $395.7 million.

"The amount covers existing and future claims that are expected to progress through the courts and also for the contribution the council could make to claims accessing the financial assistance package," she told him, referring to the 50:25:25 government scheme whereby if victims agree not to sue, they pay for only half the repairs to their houses and the state and councils pay a quarter each.

The council had paid only $1.27 million under the Government's $1 billion leaky building rescue package, created in 2011.

Auckland Council's leaky building hangover

• $395.7 million provided for weathertight claims.

• 317 weathertight claims for 1896 properties settled since 2010.

• Total net payment by council: $123.6m in past two years.

- Source: Nicole Miell, Auckland Council

- NZ Herald

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