Within a year or so, the husband and I will downsize our home and our lives, like so many other baby boomers.

We want to make life simpler and that means giving up the much-loved family home and looking for an apartment.

We don't want a house and a garden that needs constant attention. Like thousands of silver-haired ones before us, we want a low-maintenance, lock-up-and-leave to give us more freedom when it comes to our weekends.

But I'm very nervous about leaving our home. Not because of the wonderful memories we've made here but because the little cottage is bombproof. It was first registered in 1898 and it is constructed of hand-hewn kauri.


Sure, we had to renovate it a few years ago but that was only the bit that had been tacked on to the original cottage in the 60s.

As the builders showed me, all the work done in the 19th century had well and truly stood the test of time.

Now, as we begin the job of looking for our next home, the ghost of leaky buildings lurks over my shoulder. The evidence of systemic failure within the building industry is all around me - I drive past four low-rise apartment buildings to get to my home. Three are covered in plastic while builders tear out the rot and try to make them liveable.

During my years of talkback, I've heard countless horror stories from people who lost everything because the homes they bought in good faith turned out to be dank, foul-smelling pits into which their life savings disappeared. And nobody has been held accountable.

The builders pointed to the architects and said they shouldn't have been designing Mediterranean-style homes with flat roofs and minimal eaves and balconies and balustrades in this tropical climate.

The architects pointed to the clients and said they were only delivering to the brief and if the builders knew what they were doing and the apprenticeship scheme hadn't been scrapped, the homes would have been fine.

Architects and builders pointed to the manufacturers of the claddings and timbers used in the buildings and the government body that deemed them fit for purpose when clearly they were not.

The council building inspectors dished out building consents with the same breezy insouciance as parking wardens issue tickets, without appearing to have inspected the buildings.

It was a decade-long, $11 billion disaster for thousands of homeowners.

And now we have a housing shortage that has prompted exhortations from the Government and council for developers to build more homes, quickly. That has put pressure on all sectors of the building industry and that scares me.

There aren't enough qualified tradies, there are time pressures and manpower and materials are being sourced from all around the world.

That isn't a problem provided the people and the products are up to scratch.

But news this week the steel being used to hold up four bridges on the Waikato Expressway wasn't good enough did nothing to dispel my concerns.

Apparently Fulton Hogan and HEB Construction, the contractors, were told the price they paid for the 16,000 tonnes of seismic steel they imported from China was too good to be true but they went for the cheapest bid nonetheless. Of course they did. And now they're paying the price.

So how do I know, when I visit beautifully designed, luxuriously appointed apartment building showrooms that the construction is sound and the materials are compliant? I'm relying on other people to do the right thing and, as we've seen with the leaky building crisis, they don't always do that.

We're about to put our life savings into what will probably be our last home and we can't afford to get it wrong.

I would love the building to come with a warrant of fitness - one I could read and understand and one where every person involved in the construction took responsibility for their part of the process. The suppliers guarantee their materials; the tradies guarantee their work.

I couldn't give a rat's bottom about imported German kitchenware and Italian light fittings. I just want the building to stay upright and for it not to rot, something my Grey Lynn cottage has been able to do for 120 years. I doubt whether the buildings built today will be able to stand the same test of time.

Kerre McIvor is on NewstalkZB, weekdays, noon-4pm.
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