NZ’s biggest leaky building repair: $100m job features in new Prime documentary

New Zealand’s most expensive leaky apartment project, with repairs estimated to cost about $100 million, features in a documentary screening next Wednesday on Sky’s free-to-air channel Prime.

A Living Hell: Apartment Disasters investigates issues with St Lukes Garden apartments, a 15-building 285-unit project built between 2003 and 2011 and in the Mt Albert/Sandringham area.

John Gray of the Home Owners and Buyers Association of New Zealand says St Lukes on Morning Star Pl is by far New Zealand’s largest leaky building repair project.

Gray and Roger Levie also of HOBANZ feature in the one-hour documentary made with NZ on Air support.

Bill Bennett, St Lukes Gardens’ body corporate committee chairman, told the Herald repairs had risen from the original $100m after figures “estimated by our quantity surveyors BNB”. But owners had not yet been told so he was reluctant to give the new figure.

The blocks were developed by Arthur Morgenstern’s company St Lukes Garden Apartments and built by Kalmar Construction.

Bennett said a settlement was reached with Auckland Council but it is confidential and the case never went to court.

Bennett expects it will cost about $140,000 to fix his own place.

Bennett said that, to date, only one of the blocks is partially finished.

“We started back in 2019 and we are estimating to finish around 2024 to 2026,” Bennett said.

In the film, he tells Levie he never thought he’d be involved in such a huge job.

“A lot of owners would not have anticipated their places being stripped down to this level,” said Bennett, aged 80. Buyers would not have thought the blocks would leak because they are concrete, he said.

“But I didn’t realise tilt slabs were built like a Meccano set so there are areas where moisture can get in,” Bennett tells Levie.

Gray and Levie said they made the documentary to highlight how defective apartment blocks were still being built today and not just with weathertightness issues but also with structural, fire and seismic problems.

One source said around $70m was paid by the council to St Lukes Garden’s body corporate, held in a trust account to be drawn down as each of the 15 blocks are fixed.

Gray tells how investigations into the St Lukes Gardens blocks began due to leaks but then far more serious issues are now being uncovered.

The documentary also features Wellington’s Sirocco Apartments on Church St, where owner Anne Bell tells of “a huge systemic issue”. Cracks are shown in walls and she also points to issues with balconies, telling of selling at a “huge loss”.

Auckland’s defective 12-unit The Zone apartments, 3 Edinburgh St, Newton, also features.

Its body corporate chairman William Jeffery shows rusted metal and structural feature deterioration due to weathertighness issues.

Most problems are “hidden in behind the walls”, he says, telling how untreated timber was used.

The Zone apartment owner Olivia Goudie tells how her sister and her had worked hard to afford and The Zone apartment “seemed perfect” but she described herself as devastated, saying the fallout from buying the place were extremely damaging.

Problems with the Unit Titles Act are highlighted, with owners of defective apartments telling how they suspected the vendor knew of serious issues.

Gray was involved a previous documentary on the same topic, called A Rotten Shame, which aired in 2011.

Levie told the Herald the documentary had primarily been put together to highlight the fact that defective buildings were still rising today “and this is having a huge impact on people’s lives”.

While St Lukes Gardens was estimated to be New Zealand’s most expensive defective building repair job, work was being done there and homes were being fixed, Levie said.

The blocks which worry him are those where work is not being done, he indicated.

“The more important buildings to focus on which are covered in the documentary are ones like The Zone in Auckland and Sirocco in Wellington – both beyond economic repair leaving owners in an awful financial position – and Altera in Stonefields which was built by Fletchers and completed in 2015 and is now being remediated,” Levie said.

A Living Hell: Apartment Disasters, 7.30pm, Wednesday April 14, Prime

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