Shonky bridge could see council in court

Last updated 13:44 31/01/2014
Hertnon bridge
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ
A BRIDGE TOO FAR: Gary and Lynne Hertnon at the unsafe bridge to their block of land in Otaki Gorge.

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An Otaki couple battling for 15 years to get access to their dream lifestyle property are preparing to take Kapiti Coast District Council to court.

Gary and Lynne Hertnon bought the Otaki Gorge property in 1998, unaware a bridge providing the only vehicle access to the block would be condemned as dangerous and closed by the council.

The bridge was built by developer Greg Moffatt from material including crane parts.

Now, after years being unable to use the bridge, the couple are planning to take legal action against the council for failing to force Moffatt to repair or replace it, which it has the power to do under the Building Act.

The council decided in a public excluded meeting yesterday that if it does not receive a satisfactory building consent application including extra information requested from Moffatt by May 31 it will consider taking action through the Environment Court.

"We are mindful of our statutory responsibility to enforce the Building Act. We hope we will receive a building consent to carry out the work required to bring the bridge back to approved standard. We recognise that this has been a long standing and distressing situation for all concerned," community services group manager Tamsin Evans said yesterday.

The Hertnons said they were advised by Moffatt the bridge would be rated at 20 tonne but about a year later a 13 tonne rating was put on it, meaning heavy machinery required to develop their land and build their dream home could not use it.

In 1999 they were asked to pay $1000 for urgent repairs to the bridge, which raised alarm bells as it had only just been certified, Gary Hertnon said.

He believed the council should not have granted a "retrospective building consent" without inspecting it.

Three years ago the bridge was closed to all vehicles after an independent engineer's report commissioned by the council raised serious concerns about its safety.

Engineer Peter Bolton was fined by the engineers' voluntary industry body last year for signing the bridge off as compliant without checking it.

The dispute between the Hertnons and Moffatt remains unresolved and the land is only accessible by foot.

Hertnon was adamant Moffatt should replace the bridge and the council should ensure he does.

"Our dream property is land-locked and worthless. We are at the end of our tether, on the verge of bankruptcy,"  Hertnon said.

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Moffatt said he was working with the council to repair the bridge.

- The Dominion Post

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