A Tauranga couple will appear on Fair Go this week to air their grievances about a $370,000 failed retaining wall that is forcing them to sell up and move on.
Barry and Raewynne Elshaw, who live in 4th Avenue, are looking to sell their house after a year-long saga to fix a specially engineered retaining wall that collapsed on their property.
Tauranga residents Raewynne and Barry Elshaw outside their failed retaining wall in 4th Ave.
“We’ll sell up, move out,” says Barry.
“It’s a nice area close to town. It’s got so much going for it, but I just don’t enjoy living there.”
Barry says contractor Heath Breen was employed to construct a retaining wall a year ago and when it collapsed admitted fault before leaving town.
His insurance company stepped in but Barry says nothing has happened in the year since, leaving the Elshaws with a hefty bill.
“We were trying to get plans drawn to reinstate the wall. During that time he (the contractor) went to a solicitor, who said ‘don’t admit liability’, but it was too late he had already done that.
“From that time on I’ve tried very, very hard to have a conversation with him. We have heard nothing. All in all it’s been a very stressful 12 months.
“My wife has been as solid as a rock right the way through this. The last 12 months have been the worst 12 months in our lives.”
Barry says the contractor has been tracked down by Fair Go and is now believed to be living in Ngaruawahia.
Barry and Raewynne now face the prospect of taking the contractor to court, a process that is estimated to cost $25,000 a day for a 7-10 day hearing, with no guarantee of success and a three to five year wait for the outcome.
This Barry says they cannot afford.
It all started a few years back when the Elshaws were looking at the prospect of subdividing and moving onto the lower part of their property.
Tauranga City Council approved the plans on the condition a properly engineer-designed retaining wall separated the two properties.
Heath Breen of Heath’s Retaining and Fencing Ltd offered to quote for the work. At the time he was a volunteer at the Tauranga Volunteer Coastguard where Barry is a long term administrator.
He got the job, which according to the council approved design required two walls stepped down the hill and separated by a bench.
Barry says the top wall was built and completed but then the contractor went away for five or six weeks before starting on the bottom wall.
By the time he returned to start on the bottom wall Barry says the top wall had collapsed. That was 12 months ago today, says Barry.
“He admitted that he had done wrong. He admitted that not just in front of us but in front of other engineers.
“At our age we don’t need a bill for $370,000.”
Barry and Raewynne are both volunteers at Tauranga Volunteer Coastguard, Raewynne also works at the Red Cross Shop, and on Wednesdays Barry and Raewynne also help Tauranga Meals On Wheels.
Fair Go is on TV1 on Wednesday evening.
In a statement to SunLive Heath Breen says he never saw the original engineers drawings until after the wall moved.
When the incident happened, he went to help assuming his public liability insurance would cover if it was his problem.
"The Elshaws never put in a claim," says Heath. "Why didn’t they do that? If they had then the insurance companies would have sorted it."
The Elshaws were developers, says Heath. If the Elshaws had provided the full and orginal plans then the cost of the project would have been considerably more.
Most developers understand that with any development there is an element of risk, but at no time did the Elshaws try to minimise it by getting their own insurance cover.
"The contractors always gets slammed," says Heath.
"After this happened, I stopped work in Tauranga, I had to move to Ngaruawahia to work in the freezing works where I spent 12 weeks on strike."
His home is for sale and his relationship of six years ended. He’s out of pocket by $100,000 plus, and if the insurance company doesn’t pay then he will be forced into bankruptcy.
"And what about the engineer that I hired. He was bankrupt at the time and he walks off scot-free."