By ELIZABETH BINNING
An American geology expert warned Waihi's mine company three years ago that part of the town would collapse - but he says the firm never got back to him.
Chris Buckley, a geologist with a background in seismology, said he wrote a study for Waihi Gold in March 1999, predicting that within two years land in the southeast would collapse.
"This will make the mining people very uncomfortable," he told a packed public meeting in Waihi last night.
Waihi Gold general manager Dave Ingle, who has been in his job six months, said after the meeting: "I have never seen this report."
He did not recall anyone at the company telling him about the report but said he would investigate.
The meeting was told by lawyer Christopher Dickie that he was preparing to take legal action on behalf of a number of residents.
The Auckland lawyer said he intended seeking all relevant documents about the mine from the Government, Waihi Gold and the Hauraki District Council.
The meeting at the town's memorial hall attracted about 250 people and was held after this week's release of a report into the subsidence last December that sucked down one house and left others in danger.
The report identified 174 properties - representing 10 per cent of the land value in Waihi - as being at some level of risk of collapsing.
Residents at 13 of the properties have been given two weeks to vacate their homes. Other families are in limbo, waiting to learn whether they, too, will be forced to move.
Last night's meeting was attended by Hauraki council and Government officials - and Associate Energy Minister Harry Duynhoven.
Mr Buckley's revelation that he had warned about the collapse shocked many residents.
Mr Buckley's study was conducted over nine days and identified 115 collapses. All but three took place between 8am and 6.30pm during those days. After that, he made his prediction there would be a collapse to the southeast within 1 1/2 to 2 years.
Mr Buckley said he contacted Waihi Gold after the release of the report this week but the company had not returned his calls or emails.
He believed residents did not need to be evacuated. Tilt meters could be set up in high and medium-risk areas to measure any ground tremors.
Three would be needed in each of the areas. They would cost about $2000 each and would give two days' warning.
"I don't think you need to take the course that you are taking right now," he said.
Hauraki Mayor Basil Morrison said he wished Mr Buckley's report had been made public.
He said a working party would be set up to discuss issues including compensation.
By ELIZABETH BINNING