Napier man hit by landslip in floods feels let down by council

The Napier City Council is rejecting claims a culvert it initially agreed to put in to prevent flooding would have prevented a large Napier Hill slip in November’s floods.

Chris Dale remembers hearing a bang “as loud as a train” from his Havelock Rd home on the evening of November 9’s chaotic downpour.

It was the sound of a 3m-high, 10m-long retaining wall which ran along the back of his home dropping out and crashing into the house below.

“It was like an earthquake followed two seconds later by a big bang.

“We vacated the property in a real hurry.”

Dale, a mechanical engineer, has lived at the house for 12 years.

He said in that time his uphill neighbours had experienced a lot of issues with water running down the steep street through to their carport which sits above Dale’s backyard.

In 2017, the council agreed via a phone conversation with Dale’s then neighbour to put in a culvert to redirect water into the proper stormwater channels.

Dale said the subsequent water runoff from the road which he says has run down his neighbour’s driveway and eroded his retaining wall over time was an issue the council should be held responsible for.

“It’s like a leaky shower. It’s happening over a long period of time.”

A Napier City Council spokeswoman said it had received several service requests relating to stormwater issues from property owners on Havelock Rd over the years, some relating to inadequacies with private structures and others from council assets.

She acknowledged a commitment was given by a council officer in 2017 to investigate the installation of new stormwater road sumps with the hope that they could reduce the volume of water reaching the lower end of the street in high intensity events.

However, such an intervention would be “limited in its effectiveness” and require major investment to downstream infrastructure in order to work, she said.

“Council decided that this solution would not be an appropriate use of public funds, but unfortunately this was not relayed back to the customer.

“As a result of this error, council has offered to design and build improvements to the customers’ driveways to limit the volume of water which leaves the road.”

She said the November event – roughly 240mm of rain fell on the city – was extreme and of a scale which far exceeded any design standards considered in the formation of roads and stormwater systems.

“Unfortunately, residents across the city were severely impacted.”

Dale said two council staff turned up to his home the day after the flood to inspect the damage – when asked about the culvert which he felt could have prevented the slip from occurring, they said they didn’t know about it and directed him to his insurance company.

“It was a traumatic experience.

“You are in shock. You haven’t slept and then you have to deal with quite a few issues.”

Dale said the council had been “derelict” and failed to show a duty of care.

His neighbour, Edmond Otis, said he hadn’t parked his car in the affected carport since the floods for fear it would “vanish” like Dale’s yard.

He also felt the council was responsible, given it had acknowledged there was “an issue” in 2017 with the offer of the culvert.

“The city knew this was in issue for several years.

“It’s a city issue. They need to fix the street.”

It now put them between a rock and a hard place with both the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and their insurers, Otis said.

After receiving a $120,000 payout from EQC, Dale was hopeful to secure the land directly under his home, clean up the mess and move on.

EQC provides cover for residential properties that have fire cover under their insurance policy, which includes cover for landslips within certain limits and the boundary of the home.

For any damage outside of the residential cover EQC provides, they advise residents speak to the private insurer or the local council.

“We have a lot at stake here,” Dale said.

“There’s too much to lose. I’ve got a lot to gain.”

His excitement showed when talking about the new possibilities and extended deck he planned to build.

However, he was also reluctant to proceed without assurances from the council that there would be action taken to prevent water runoff issues in the future.

“All I want is for the council to put the culvert in.”

Approached for further comment, the council spokeswoman declined, saying that council staff would be meeting with Dale again shortly and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.

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