Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Apartment buyers face wait for air-conditioning

Buyers of pricey Grey Lynn apartments face 18-month wait over power mix-up.
North Apartments exterior artist impression. Photo / Supplied
North Apartments exterior artist impression. Photo / Supplied

The buyers of an upmarket apartment building have been told they will be without air conditioning for up to 18 months due to a shortage of power capacity in Grey Lynn.

Developer David Southcombe has informed buyers at North Apartments of the problem, blaming all the developments along the Grey Lynn ridgeline for the capacity issue.

This is disputed by power company Vector, which said there is no capacity issue and the "customer" had been advised at the time of application the development needed a bigger power connection.

In an email to buyers last month, Southcombe said "although we have run additional capacity to the building, I am now told it is insufficient to simultaneously run all the electrical requirements PLUS forty air-condition units".

He has proposed running a power cable under the road to the North building from a sub-station he plans to build at another one of his developments where construction is due to start early next year.

It could be 12 to 18 months before the sub-station is operational, the email said.

The North development, comprising two buildings with a central connecting atrium, has 37 apartments and six townhouses, priced from about $700,000 to $1.8 million. It is one of several apartment buildings replacing car yards and commercial businesses along the Grey Lynn ridgeline on Great North Rd.

One buyer, who did not want to be identified, said owners faced the option of a long wait for air-conditioning or a refund. The buyer was not looking forward to the prospect of living through a hot summer without air-conditioning.

Remuera breast surgeon John Harman, who is developing a luxury 58-apartment block in St Marks Rd, Epsom, said he had to write out a cheque for $120,000 to boost the power capacity in the street for his development.

"I agree it's a cost of my development but on the other side of this, developments are falling over all over town because of costs, and this is just another cost," Harman said.

He said he was also using up half of the sewerage capacity in the street, which might have consquences for future developments.

These cases raise the issue of whether Auckland's infrastructure can cope with a new era featuring apartment living and greater intensification.

Auckland councillor Chris Fletcher said the council's Unitary Plan, providing for more than 420,000 new homes over the next 25 years, has huge implications for transport, water and power infrastructure, not to mention overcrowded schools.

There would be a lot of surprises coming Aucklanders' way, she said.

Infrastructure New Zealand chief executive Stephen Selwood said while most people celebrated the passing of the Unitary Plan allowing for greater density, current planning would create infrastructure challenges, particularly a major increase in traffic congestion.

The greatest concern, Selwood said, was on both sides of the Tamaki Estuary, "the most transport constrained area in the city" and major density planned for Takapuna, Belmont and Northcote along the seriously congested Lake Rd and Esmonde Rd corridors.

He has called for greater collaboration between infrastructure providers and developers, who, he said, should focus on the south, where land and easy access to the airport, rail, and road infrastructure could be provided, and with good links to the Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

Southcombe told the Herald on Sunday that air-conditioning units were not part of the original brief but at the request of some buyers he had looked to provide the units.

"We have concerns if the building was fully loaded on a cold winter's night everybody running heats pumps and ovens etc there is a longshot there could be an issue with them having sufficient power," he said.

Asked who had told him there could be insufficient power to run all the building's electrical requirements and 40 air-conditioning units, Southcombe had "no comment".

"There is a shortage of power on Great North Rd," he said.

A Vector spokeswoman said there was no capacity issue on Great North Rd or the wider network.

A standard connection for a 40-unit apartment block would generally require 200 amps, but at the time of application Vector recommended the developer go with at least 300 amps, the spokeswoman said.

She said Vector was happy to work with the developer on a solution to upgrade the site with a new transformer or provide a supply from the transformer in the Crest apartment development across the road.

"This comes down to decisions that the developer needs to make to ensure the connection to his building is appropriately sized in order to access the network capacity," the spokeswoman said.

Another infrastructure provider, Watercare, said there were no water or wastewater issues affecting Great North Rd, saying its network can accommodate the new Bunnings mega store and other intensification in the area.

- Herald on Sunday

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