PHOTO: Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin
A New Plymouth mayoral candidate is calling on the council to honour a commitment it gave to help a family caught in a six-year wrangle with a property developer.
Victoria and Tim Coleman say the council promised to build a retaining wall after the boundary between their property and a subdivision was excavated – undermining their home – but nothing has happened.
The Colemans’ children, Levi and Millie, were not even born when their dreams of raising a family in their brand-new home were bulldozed.
“Six and half years ago our house was undermined and since then we’ve been battling to get it retained.
“We’ve been working with the council for many, many years and multiple times we’ve been promised they would build the retaining and it still hasn’t been done.”
Who is to blame for the cutting was a bone of contention between the Colemans and the developer, which says it was acting on Tim Coleman’s instructions.
Earlier this year however, an Engineering New Zealand disciplinary committee censured and fined the engineer overseeing the development.
It found the cut face of up to 1.7 metres left the Colemans’ home unsupported and the engineer should have advised the developer to fix it immediately.
Victoria Coleman said one thing was clear – the home was compromised.
“The engineers’ reports say that structurally it’s not sound for its lifetime of 50 years, if there’s any seismic events the house could shift.
“We’ve lost our builder’s warranty, the ribraft flooring no longer complies with the consent.
“It’s unsellable, we can’t move on and we can’t enjoy our home. We are just stuck really.”
They sought help from the council believing its consents had been breached.
“They’ve promised to build the retaining on multiple occasions. We’ve been told it would be up by September last year and then we were told it would be up by May this year.
“We’ve had equipment delivered outside the house, you know machinery and things.
“We’ve had the former CEO promise it would be done in front of the elected members, so we just keep getting hopeful and getting it taken away again.”
Now councillor and mayoral hopeful Dinnie Moeahu, who also sought assurances from the chief executive on the couple’s behalf, has gone to bat for the Colemans.
“There was a promise or commitment made by the council that there would be a resolution put forward.
“It’s a simple measure, it’s a retaining wall and they’ve got a real strong case and all they’ve ever wanted was a resolution and for council to adhere to the commitment that they’ve given that family.”
Moeahu said council – which had admitted making ‘missteps’ in the saga – should just get on with it.
“Council made a commitment to resolve it, resolve the issue. That’s as simple as I can put it.
“They are in limbo at the moment when all they’ve ever wanted for them to move forward with their lives is to have that retaining wall done as per stated by the council, so in my view get it done.”
However, the council denied it ever promised to do the remedial work itself and it had always regarded it as “a civil matter” between the Colemans and the developer.
In a statement to RNZ, the council said both its former infrastructure manager and former chief executive have tried to assist the family in the past by exploring “remediation options”.
“It is not correct that any undertaking was provided by the council in this respect. As you can appreciate, the council doesn’t have a role in what is a private dispute.
“We are also not in a position to assist developers by undertaking development works on their behalf, where they fall short in taking all required actions to deal with aggrieved adjoining owners.”
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