Consultant blames house sinking on garden

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 30/09/2013
Jenny Ericksen
JOHN COWPLAND

THAT SINKING FEELING: Jenny Ericksen rejects a consultant’s claim that her house is sinking because of the way she watered her garden.

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Jenny Ericksen's home is sinking and she has been told that watering her vegetables is to blame.

The sinking has forced the 70-year-old out of her Taradale home in Hawke's Bay. But Mrs Ericksen isn't buying the garden watering theory, and says the ground has been so wet she never had to water it.

"The suggestion that all this came about from watering my garden is just ridiculous," she said.

Mrs Ericksen paid $390,000 for the 1979 concrete slab house in Hammond Rd early last year. During this year's drought, the worst in decades, she noticed her property getting very wet and the southwest corner of the house slumping.

She alerted Napier City Council, which inspected the property in March and closed off a lateral pipe.

But within a week of the council visit, Mrs Ericksen noticed her house was still sinking.

The council eventually hired Opus consultants, which found the home's southwest corner had sunk 66 millimetres lower than the northwest corner. Doors and windows had become difficult to open and cracks could be seen in its brick veneer.

The council then employed a second consultant, Babbage Consultants, to find the source of the water. Babbage concluded it was likely the water came from "some source of surface infiltration" and said they "had noticed there was a vegetable garden near the house's southwest corner".

Given that there were drought conditions when the settlement was first noticed "we suspect that significant watering of the vegetable garden during such time may have been sufficient to trigger such a collapse".

Mrs Ericksen finally moved out of the house a few months ago because the dampness was making her ill. She is now renting a small one-room flat.

But her insurance company, Vero, has refused to cover the damage because it was caused by subsidence.

"I'm devastated," Mrs Ericksen said. "I love my home. I just want my life back.

"I appreciate the work the council has done to find the source, but I really feel they need to do more. I have spent thousands on reports by a well driller, a drain layer, a building inspector and a water diviner. I'm doing my bit here.

"The suggestion that all this came about from watering my garden is just ridiculous. Watering was never necessary because the ground was always so wet. What's more, my vegetable garden is about twenty metres from the sinking side of the house. The Babbage guy never even came to my house," Mrs Ericksen said.

Council works asset manager Bill McWatt said the council has carried out CCTV monitoring of the stormwater main, checked the water main, and obtained independent advice. "Council does not see itself as having any liability for the issues with Mrs Ericksen's house."

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- The Dominion Post

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