A home owner has come out swinging at the Whangārei District Council for a "lack of compassion" in requiring him to undertake work in and around his condemned house while he's staying in a motel.
Anthony Stringer and his wife Marian were moved to a motel by the district council last week after their Manuka Place house in Raumanga was deemed unsafe to live in because of structural damage.
Earthworks on a subdivision below the house, carried out by former Whangārei mayor Stan Semenoff, are being investigated as a possible cause of the damage.
After moving into temporary accommodation, Stringer said WDC posted a Dangerous Building Notice on the letterbox that required him to undertake a number of works within a stipulated timeframe.
"I feel let down by the council. I am staying in a motel through no fault of mine and yet am being told by the council to do all this work on my condemned house," he said.
But WDC chief executive Rob Forlong said these situations were really difficult for the people affected and that the council has a lot of compassion for Stringer and his family.
"Our support to the home owner has included helping him to safely remove items from the property, and providing guidance on how to seek assistance from relevant organisations such as the EQC and insurers."
Stringer has lived in that house for 16 years.
About two months ago, the front door of his property began getting tight and he noticed a crack on the road that later sagged outside his house.
On his way home from work, he saw a slip about 50m below his house on a hill near where the earthworks are being done.
He also spotted a crack going down his driveway, a few days later Stringer noticed three cracks on the chimney of his house, and a week later they began appearing on a wall.
"One night I was sitting in the lounge and I heard a creak in the ceiling. I then realised it's serious. I went to the council and they told me they couldn't help so I went back and continued living there until a week later when the council engineer turned up."
Stringer said he received a call from WDC yesterday, inquiring when he would erect a fence around his condemned house and do other work as listed in the notice.
"I am down and you're still kicking me. I am not the cause of what's happening on my property," said the fabricator who works at Culham Engineering.
Stringer said he had spent more than $2000 on motel bills so far but has been offered a place to stay by his employer.
Company chairman Shane Culham said someone has to take responsibility for Stringer's predicament and his business was doing everything to help the couple.
In his response, Forlong said WDC encouraged the Stringers to leave and offered to pay for a night in a motel as an incentive.
On Stringer's claim that WDC did not inspect his property and the sagging road the day he raised it, Forlong said the council advised him to contact an engineer, his insurance company and the Earthquake Commission.
"We offered to investigate and let him know that if anything significant was found, we may have to issue a Dangerous Building Notice. We also loaded a request for a routine inspection of the road."
Forlong explained WDC's primary role was to determine whether the house was fit and safe to occupy.
If the house was likely to cause injury or death, he said WDC would issue the notice and the home owner was obliged to make the necessary repairs.
"Following the investigation process correctly is the best thing to do to ensure the best outcome," he said.
Forlong said people in this situation were eligible for rates relief.