Angry Auckland homeowners claim major construction work at one of Auckland's most popular food hubs is causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of "earthquake-like" damage to their properties.
Brown Street resident Russell Hoban estimates cracks to his 157-year-old property's walls, outside pile and decking will cost around $100,000 to repair. He believes the damage is likely being caused by heavy vibrations taking place about 60m from his property at Ponsonby Central and has been back and forth with his insurance company who initially denied his claim.
The major development includes drilling a three-story basement car park as well as building one level of retail and hospitality space, one level of commercial offices, and a top-level residential penthouse.
Hoban has lived in his 1863-built home for 30 years, and says the works have led to the "worst year of his life," and that he feels like he is "living in a constant earthquake."
"I had to move out of my house for two weeks because the vibrations were just too awful.
"Things were falling off the walls, the tiles were creaking. The walls in every room are covered in cracks.
"I've got shingles because of the stress of it all. My elderly mother died last year so I've had to deal with all of this while grieving for her."
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Leading the construction is developer Andrew Davies, who owns more than 50 properties around Auckland, including the current Ponsonby Central building.
Davies said he wanted to "stand by" the local residents and be a "good neighbour."
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"We will work to rectify any damage once the works are complete, but it is now really in the hands of the insurance companies."
His company also said they have kept residents informed throughout the process and have stuck within the "strict" construction criteria provided by Auckland Council.
Hoban, a mature theology PHD student, said his Insurance Company IAG originally said damage being done was caused by "earth movement" which they didn't cover, and he said he had to become an "expert" in vibration management to prove his claims.
The company later accepted Hoban's claim, though the case is still to be settled.
Roger Wallace, executive manager at IAG Insurance Operation said: "This is a complex issue involving a number of parties including Auckland Council and those involved in the construction of the neighbouring commercial development.
"We regret that the claim by Mr Hoban regarding his home has yet to be settled, but we are working with all parties including Mr Hoban to conclude this matter as soon as possible."
Hoban, 60, believes works should never have been allowed to happen so close to surrounding properties, and that the council failed to offer any sufficient means for homeowners to challenge the construction.
He claims a meeting with council and the construction company before the work started was cancelled and messages of complaint were ignored or deflected and that there was a breakdown in the vibration management process.
"There has been no attempt at coordinating, following up complaints or offering contingency plans, even after a meeting with the council last year," said Hoban.
But Steve Pearce, manager of regulatory compliance at Auckland Council said: "During the construction, vibration experts engaged by the constructors have undertaken vibration monitoring.
"These results have been reviewed and we are satisfied that they demonstrate compliance with the standards set out in the resource consent."
Neighbouring artist, Mary Shirley, 74, has also had to deal with damage to her 1893-built property, which she believes is a result of the works at Ponsonby Central.
Damage includes multiple wall cracks, a fireplace coming away from a wall, outside decking breaking away from the house and large breaks in a garden wall.
Like Hoban, Shirley feels her voice has been ignored by the council and developers.
"You just feel like you don't matter at all," she said.
"The stress has been terrible. I lost my husband a year ago, so I didn't have the energy to fight it at the time.
"It's just all about money and profit, we're just the little people.
"The whole thing has just been terrifying. At one point I was convinced my chimney was going to fall down on top of me."
Suzanne Wilkinson, professor of construction management at Massey University believes it is "likely vibration from construction" causing the damage at nearby homes.
"The current situation seems unacceptable," she said.
"Ethics don't feature much in construction, it's more about what the contractual arrangements say [but] they should be minimising impact to surrounding properties."
Auckland residents are no strangers to damage by construction, with over 22 homeowners alleging severe damage to their properties by the city's Southern Motorway roadworks last year.
Works began at Ponsonby Central in January 2019 with a completion date expected to be the middle of next year.