An Auckland family is at war with electricity giant Vector over a new power transformer outside their home which they say is an eyesore that has knocked up to $150,000 off the value of their property.
Mission Bay couple Daren and Kathryn Furness said they have been punished for standing up to the power provider, which they said had earlier agreed to a "less intrusive" transformer.
The couple want better legislation to protect homeowners and say people are powerless to stop the "hideous eyesores" from monopolies outside their homes.
"Vector has been allowed to dump intrusive infrastructure like this right in front of people's properties, wiping hundreds of thousands off property values," Daren Furness said. "There is absolutely no oversight from any independent local body."
Auckland Council's compliance team investigated the transformer's placement and confirmed resource consent was not required because it meet the permitted activity standards specified in the Auckland Unitary Plan.
The Mission Bay property has a council valuation of $2 million but registered valuation company Seagars has estimated this has been significantly reduced because of the new transformer.
In a written valuation Andrew Buckley of Seagars said the size and site of the transformer "does detract from the saleability and value of the property".
The company looked at similar sales and estimated up to $150,000 had been lost.
Buckley referred to perceptions around electricity and cancer and said the "upper echelon of the market were more discerning".
Furness said the dispute with Vector started after the family approached the power company to move an existing pole mounted transformer 3.2m down to their boundary.
The family wanted to build a new driveway and subdivide their 811sq m property.
They also applied to Chorus to move a telephone pole which they said was approved.
They said they were told by Vector the existing pole was due to be replaced within six months and received confirmation in September, 2017, that a modern pole mounted transformer would be installed on the boundary of their property.
"They sent us mockups of what it would look like and even told us where we could see the new style transformers which we were happy with," Furness said.
The family sent the confirmation, from Ross Malcolm of Vector, to Auckland Council as part of the resource application for a new home and driveway on their property.
But in November things soured when the immediate neighbours objected to the pole moving to the boundary.
"There is no one even living in the neighbouring property, it has been empty for the 14 years we have been here," Furness claimed.
"Vector told [us] they needed resource consent to install a new pole mounted transformer at the boundary, and the neighbours had objected."
Vector accepted that objection and initially told the Furness family the new pole would have to return to the original position, blocking the new access, or a ground transformer would be installed.
He said mockups sent by Vector to Auckland Transport and Auckland Council show a much smaller transformer than the one installed - with no bunker.
The Furness' laid a complaint with the Utilities Commission in December 2017.
But in March this year the bunker was erected.
In July the Utilities Commission came back with the decision and the Furness' were awarded $1000 for Vector's handling of the matter.
The Commissioner said Vector caused the Furness' "unnecessary stress" by stating they would move the pole back to original position - and stop the planned subdivision - unless the transformer was installed.
The Furness family want more protection in place for homeowners and they want Vector to honour the original confirmed agreement.
"We want the ground transformer removed from in front of our property," Daren Furness said.
"If it is not going to be removed, then we require compensation for the loss of value to our property of $150,000."
Elissa Downey from Vector said there would be no comment as the matter was still being dealt with by the Utilities Commissioner.
"It would be inappropriate for Vector to comment until that process is fully resolved," she said.
"We completely reject Mr and Mrs Furness' version of events."
Auckland Transport said Vector had the right to access the road and berm under the Electricity Act.
"The only involvement for Auckland Transport is around safety," Mark Hannan from AT said.
"A road engineer checked this and there is no safety issue with the transformer."