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Neighbours fear more slips at building site

Flagstaff Team

Pile on… Noise and vibration was caused by driving metal piles into the Byron Ave development site

Troubles at a Takapuna apartment development have left a neighbour unable to access his driveway and garage because of subsidence and another relocated from her home to a hotel to work because of noise from pile-driving.

Plaster cracks and a broken window have been reported at other houses near the building site at 42-44 Byron Ave.

The site was closed down briefly late last month, but limited work has since resumed. Fourteen two-storey apartments are planned on what was once two residential sections near the bottom of the road, which ends in a cul de sac above mangroves.

Worksafe said it was notified of ground collapsing on an adjoining property due to unsafe excavation on the building site.

After visiting the site it issued a prohibition notice on 29 August. “This notice prohibited work from taking place until a geotechnical engineering report was carried out by a competent person and a remedial work plan and risk management plan was supplied.”

The notice was lifted the next day, a Sunday.

Auckland Council inspectors visited the site at the same time as Worksafe and ordered fencing for safety’s sake at the tenanted house next door. This was erected across the driveway and between the house and a garage to the rear, after slippage beneath the garage.

Alex Zhai, who lives in the rented house with his wife and two small children, said a site manager from the development visited him on 27 August and asked him to move his car. “Then we saw it [the land] had slipped under the garage,” Zhai said. Workers covered the area with black plastic, then “put concrete on the face of the landslide”, he said.

The garage borders the construction site where an open cut was left exposed for months on the sloping and dug-out eastern edge of the development property. It was along this edge and after rain last month that subsisdence began.

Zhai has been told it may be one or two months until he can use the garage. He worries about ongoing stability. “It’s lucky the rain has stopped,” he said.

Sandra Allen, who lives further up the road, said she and other residents questioned why the development won Auckland Council non-notified consent, given its scale. They wanted ongoing monitoring on what they say is historically unstable ground.

“It’s a nightmare down there for them,” said Allen of nearer neighbours who have also had vibrations from the pile-driving and muddy road surfaces to contend with.

Steven Salt, who lives directly across the road, said the development has “upset a lot of people” and had caused further issues with parking and mess. Some people’s houses had suffered plaster cracks, and the noise and vibration had gone on for a long time. During lockdown, he had worked from home and the development had been very disruptive.

He questioned if the method of building was appropriate for the type of land. “Developers are going to have to come up with some sort of compensation for people who have suffered property damage.”

Maureen Clark said the first she knew of the development was at the beginning of the year when site work began opposite the townhouse complex she lives in. She cannot understand how the development with extensive pile-driving was consented. “It’s like a sponge where they are building.”

The English-as-a-second-language teacher works from home and another neighbour is a shift worker. “There was a lot of noise, metal on metal, it was phenomenally noisy,” said Clark. At one stage pile-driving of large steel poles deep into the site had her jumping out of bed. “The building started shaking and I was really really frightened… it felt like an earthquake” .

At one stage, she said she was put up at the developer’s expense for a week so she could continue her work from a room at the Spencer on Byron hotel. “They gave all the owners in the immediate vicinity some ear plugs, which I thought was inappropriate and incredibly patronising.”

Pile-driving on site had halted for now, said Clark, who said she had been told a smaller machine would be brought in.

Mike Gibson, a director of ZYJ Group Ltd, the Albany-based parent company for ZYJ Construction, which was contracted to build the $8 million value development for a private developer, said the site had ongoing issues.

“We know we’re not flavour of the month on that street,” he said, but the company wanted to maintain communications with residents.

ZYJ was the “meat in the sandwich”, said Gibson. When work began – to supplied geotechnical reports and designs – “latent underground unknown conditions” were uncovered.

The company was now working with “subject matter experts and tertiary authorities” to deal with matters arising.

Auckland Council did not respond by press time to Observer questions about the consenting and monitoring of the development.

Gibson said work had slowed because ZYJ had had to come up with additional safety controls around noise. Piling, which ZYJ subcontracted, was only a small part of the project and the worst of it was done, he said.

This article originally appeared in the 18 September 2020 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.

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