By ANDREW LAXON
Rotten balconies are causing alarm at one of Auckland's biggest and newest inner-city housing developments.
Leaks at Eden Two's 97 terraced apartments - which sell for an average $250,000 - are among those that prompted an official warning last month about unsafe balconies.
Work finished only 18 months ago on the $24 million Mt Eden development, part of a planned $100 million, 225-unit office, retail and housing development billed as the future of city living.
But yesterday builders demolished the first of two balconies thought to be the worst affected by leaks and drove away with a trailer of badly rotting timber.
The builder, Ca'Bella Construction, has also removed the bottom balustrade covers on all 97 units to allow the wet timber to dry out.
The case is the latest example of the leaky building crisis affecting new homes.
Other prominent cases discovered this year include the 153-home Sacramento development at Botany Downs, the 93-unit Summerfield Villas in Grey Lynn and the Quest apartment block in Queen St.
A number of industry sources support the view of experts who told the Herald in April that one in 10 new homes was at risk of leaks and rot.
One lawyer says his firm is taking legal action on behalf of 150 owners of leaky homes.
A body corporate manager says she has more than 200 units that leak.
Next week an inquiry ordered by the Building Industry Authority is expected to confirm its interim finding in May that the country faces "a major systemic breakdown" in the building industry unless action is taken quickly.
The authority has already warned homeowners that they could be killed or seriously injured by the collapse of rotten balconies and balustrades in many new homes.
Last month it told homeowners with concerns not to use their balconies until they had been checked by experts.
The Herald has learned that Eden Two is one of several rotting balcony sites which prompted the inquiry team to advise the authority to make the warning.
Yesterday Tony Gapes, whose Redwood Group company developed the units, said the balconies were completely safe.
Ca'Bella Construction general manager Nigel Ainley agreed, but he also confirmed that the body corporate, which has ordered its own report on the leaks, had advised owners to treat the balconies with caution until the repair work was complete.
A spokesman for the owners said he could not make any comment because of legal advice.
Mr Ainley said Ca'Bella would investigate all 97 units to see if they needed repairs.
He could not say how long this would take or how much it would cost to fix the leaks, which were discovered about three monthsago.
He confirmed that Ca'Bella was paying for the work at this stage, but said final responsibility for the repairs was a legal question still to be decided.
Mr Gapes described the repairs as "a small problem", which was being fixed by the builder.
He said there were no leak problems at Eden Two's sister development, the $20 million, 83-unit Eden One across the road.
The twin developments sit by the Horse and Trap pub near the foot of Mt Eden.
* If you have information about leaking buildings,
fax (09) 373-6421.