Sara Lewis describes trying to negotiate with Auckland Transport as “a nightmare”.
A Takatu Road resident is livid that works associated with the current road sealing programme could leave her with an enormous bill because she claims the contractors are refusing to put in place adequate slip management measures.
Sara Lewis has lived on the road for seven years and has several kilometres of road frontage. She says she has tried to be accommodating despite losing large tracts of vegetation along the roadside, which was stabilising the slip-prone land.
“The road reserve has completely gone and I can already see cracks along my driveway where the land is subsiding,” she says. “Goodness knows what will happen when it rains.”
But Sara’s real concern is a corner, just past her gate, which has been sheared back to her property boundary.
“I was promised a robust solution, but what they have provided – a single row of rocks about two metres high – is grossly inadequate. I’ve been sold down the river. I’m powerless to do anything now and when the side of the bank slips on to the road, I know from prior experience that Auckland Transport (AT) will tell me it’s my problem. Rather than spend the money now putting in adequate preventative measures, they are going to let it happen and send me the bill.”
Sara says assurances that the exposed bank will be covered in coconut matting and sprayed with kikuyu grass seed is little comfort.
“They’ve done that in other sections and it’s not working. The geo-tech engineers involved in this project are based in Hamilton and have a one-size-fits-all approach. They just have no experience of this type of soil, which is heavy clay but friable.”
Sara knows from experience how unstable her land is.
When Cyclone Wilma hit in 2011, a large section of the adjoining road reserve, about 10 metres from her house, disappeared.
“AT refuses to accept any liability and has left me to resolve the problem. The estimated cost of repairs is $112,000. The Earthquake Commission is prepared to contribute $2150, but AT says the rest of the bill is mine. As a result, the slip is still unrepaired and in heavy rain last June, it regressed further. Several contractors and engineers have expressed surprise that Auckland Council isn’t doing anything to help.
“If the current bank slips, it will be twice the size of the 2011 event.
“If the road reserve had not been cut back so severely, I would not be in this position.”
Sara says a headland, which forms part of her property, is also of cultural significance.
“A Maori pa site is immediately to the right of the big slip, with the finest example of a palisade ditch the historians have seen, plus habitation terraces around it.”
AT is working on 4.5km of Takatu Road and the project is expected to be completed by September.
AT was invited to comment, but did not respond by the paper’s deadline.