A young migrant family whose first home sits near the edge of a growing cliff say they’ve been left in “fear and insecurity” by the lack of action from their local council.
But the New Plymouth District Council said the problem is complex and there will be no easy fix.
David Chen and Jenny Zhang moved to New Zealand from China four years ago, attracted by the environment, education system and “friendly people”.
At first things were good – they worked hard around the country and about three months ago bought a $900,000 home on Waiwera Pl, voted New Plymouth’s best-kept street in 2003 and 2004.
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But their dream of home ownership soon turned into a nightmare at the hands of a large slip that opened up in late July on New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) land beside the house.
For weeks the slip has been growing, undermining the soil beneath the couple’s back lawn and adding to their stress.
They’ve been trying to get NPDC to take some “quick action” to stop more slips occurring on council land, but to no avail.
Chen, who works as a geotechnical engineer, said EQC have told them it will cover part of the repair to the couple’s property.
“Which is good news, we just need to wait until the process is settled.
“But communication with NPDC is another story, we don’t know the end result, we just keep fighting and arguing, and they just want to hide.”
Any measures the couple take to stop their land from falling away will not be effective unless the council stops the erosion on its land.
Chen said many of his emails to the council had gone unanswered, and in an attempt to get action he had reached out to everyone from councillors to the mayor to the prime minister’s office.
“I want for them to show some willingness to work with us together, to discuss the further solution and not leave us alone or hide in the corner.”
He’d sent the council a $3000 quote he’d received from a contractor to remove trees that are weighing down undermined land, but never got a reply.
“If it was some common neighbour who didn’t want to take responsibility for their land I could accept that, but this is the council.
“If you’re in government you have a reputation, you have to do the right thing for your people, it’s not like you’re some irresponsible neighbour.”
NPDC group manager planning and infrastructure, Kevin Strongman said the council sympathised with the property owners.
“But this is a complex problem that was caused by the huge amount of rain we had this winter and there will be no easy fix.”
NPDC’s building team is monitoring the property to assess the risk to the house, Strongman said.
“We had a geotech engineer look at the bank and we’re still examining what the next steps might be.”
In the meantime, the growing cliff outside their house is impacting Zhang’s mental health and putting added strain on their family.
Aside from two engineers who checked out the house, no-one had been to talk to them and while Zhang said she still loved New Zealand her view on the council had changed.
“When it first happened I was talking with our neighbour, and he just gave me this massive smile and said, ‘good luck with the council’ and I didn’t know what he meant.”
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