NewsWire report by Finn Rainger
Almost a year has passed since the Kingston landslip, and local residents say the disaster continues to have an impact on their lives.
Two of the three homes abandoned after the slip still hang precariously on the edge of the remaining bank and a collection of fallen trees and broken pipes lie scattered below.
“It didn’t used to look like that,” says home owner Kyra Burkhart, “It used to be full of trees.”
Kyra and her family had to leave their home for two months after the slip and hoped when they returned they could put it all behind them. However they soon realised the situation would not be easily resolved.
“This is our family home, on a daily basis we look out on this ugly worrying mess, it’s very depressing,” she says.
The cause of the land slip was initially unclear, with failing infrastructure and earthquake damage presumed to have caused it.
A team of Geotech engineers was hired on behalf of the Earthquake Commission to investigate why it happened and decide if the residents had a claim. Their report found a number of causes behind the slip, and earthquake damage wasn’t one of them.
It found that a build-up of groundwater underneath the sub-divided land caused it to creep forward, dislodging sewage and storm drains which in turn caused a huge leak and saturated the area. The bank consequently slipped due to excess liquidation.
Based on the report, the Wellington City Council says it’s not liable and the owners of the abandoned houses have been left to fund the repairs to the bank.
Kyra Burkhart and her family live close to the wreckage and although their property was not damaged directly they have suffered financial losses due to the drop in its value.
“We have a mortgage to pay and there has most definitely been a massive drop in the value of our property, it is unlikely that we would ever be able to sell our house unless adequate repairs were made to the entire landslip area. Local residents don’t have the money to fix the bank and shouldn’t have to,” she says.”
They dispute the findings, and believe failing council infrastructure exacerbated the problem. They are conducting their own investigation and are looking for evidence to back up these claims.
The Council is sticking by the EQC report.
Spokesperson Richard MacLean makes a theoretical reference to the mentality of the insurance providers, as proof of the report’s accuracy.
“If failed public infrastructure had played a part, the insurance organisations would have sought to reduce their liabilities by seeking that the council accepts the liability. They did not do so, indicating that they too accept natural processes as the cause,” he says.
Kyra and her husband are far from satisfied with this conclusion and have asked why the council did not conduct its own report into the cause of the slip. The Council says it’s acknowledging the frustrations of the residents and is communicating with several property owners and city councillors to try and reach an agreement that will help determine the future of the affected properties.
With winter fast approaching, local residents are now raising concerns about the potential for another slip.
A number of homeowners on Priscilla Avenue and Breton Grove say they do not feel reassured about the safety of their properties and fear that further damage may occur in a heavy storm. It appears they have cause for concern.
A second report from a team of engineers hired by the council to monitor the stability of the slip after it happened, says there’s been no significant land movement since the slip. However it also says there is a risk of further land movement which could be triggered by significant storms or seismic events in the future. The report finds that other banks within the surrounding sub division are also likely to suffer damage in these events. It recommends ongoing visual monitoring of the area by both residents and council staff to insure that any further structural damage doesn’t go unnoticed.
Meanwhile affected residents say they see no quick fix and the damage caused by the slip will continue to be a problem for them unless help is provided.
NewsWire is published by the Whitireia Journalism School.