Hillside collapse puts north Waikato couple on edge

The slip created a dam in the valley below and shifted large amounts of earth.
MARK TAYLOR/FAIRFAX NZ

The slip created a dam in the valley below and shifted large amounts of earth.

A couple living on the edge of a collapsed hillside are dreading the next deluge.

Mercer residents Hayley and Robert Schwass watched as the paddock over the fence cracked open and slid down into the valley below.

It smothered a stream and a natural dam formed but they now fear it will fill up and burst. "We've got a lake down there now," Robert said.

Part of the road at Mercer has slipped away after heavy rain.
MARK TAYLOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Part of the road at Mercer has slipped away after heavy rain.

"And the ground is so soft it's only a matter of time before it bursts."

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The torrential rain that caused widespread flooding and landslides across Auckland and the Coromandel had eased when the pair noticed something strange happening over the fence.

The farm machinery in the foreground and the water tank on the skyline give show the scale of the slip.
MARK TAYLOR/FAIRFAX NZ

The farm machinery in the foreground and the water tank on the skyline give show the scale of the slip.

Hayley was about to get into their car on Sunday when she saw the earth move. In a few minutes the landscape to the Kellyville Rd farm had changed dramatically.

"It was a bit like slow motion," she said. "It would stop for a second and you'd think it was done and then it just kept going down."

Three days earlier, a small crack formed in the paddock after a week of stormy weather.  By Saturday there was "quite a deep crack going through it".

On Sunday afternoon the pair stood and watched their boundary fence get buried in an avalanche soil.

They could hear the pine trees cracking as the dirt uprooted mature trees and snapped them in half. "Our perfectly straight fence then wriggled down there," Hayley said.

Contractors take a seat while assessing the damage on a road near the slip.
MARK TAYLOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Contractors take a seat while assessing the damage on a road near the slip.

"From the roadside it's pretty spectacular."

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The pair weren't too worried about losing their fence.  "Our concern is down there, to do with the water," Hayley said.

The couple have contacted the Earthquake Commission. EQC covers damage to residential land, within certain limits, that has been caused by storms and floods.

The view of the slip face from the Schwass' residence.
MARK TAYLOR/FAIRFAX NZ

The view of the slip face from the Schwass' residence.

Around the corner on Koheroa Rd large cracks have ripped open the tarseal. The road was also damaged in the storm and it was closed on Tuesday while contractors assessed the scene. It is unclear how long the road will be closed.

Repair options are still under investigation, according to Waikato District Council.

What does EQC cover for floods and storms?

With storms or floods, EQC covers natural disaster damage to residential land within the property boundary, and includes:

- The land under a home or outbuildings (e.g. garage or sheds)
- The land within eight metres of a home or outbuildings
- The land under or supporting the main access way, up to 60 metres from a dwelling, but not the driveway surfacing

EQC cover for land damage also extends to the following:

- Bridges and culverts within the above areas
- Some retaining walls and their support systems necessary for the support or protection of a home or insured land including the main access way within 60 metres of a house

 - Stuff

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