'Lawn-mowing business' moved Housing NZ tenant

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 13:00 31/01/2012

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A Housing New Zealand contractor sent a trailer and a vehicle with tools and grass clippings to move a tenant.

Now Nelson woman Debby Verdonk is questioning the suitability of the company contracted by Housing NZ to move state housing tenant Jo Paterson into her new flat in Richmond.

Ms Verdonk said the movers subcontracted by Switched on Contracting, which handles maintenance contracts for Housing NZ, turned up with a trailer and a vehicle full of tools and grass clippings.

"They're putting her stuff in there and they have got nothing to wrap it in. The van stinks of petrol.

"This is meant to be a professional moving firm contracted through Housing NZ. It's a lawn-mowing business," she said.

Housing NZ acting southern regional manager Symon Leggett refused to answer questions about the moving company, saying the arrangements between the agency and its contractors were "commercially sensitive".

Ms Paterson's ex-partner, Warwick James, said he intervened when the contractors were roping a cedar table on to a trailer with nylon ropes.

"They were going to do a lot of damage," he said.

"It wasn't a professional moving company at all. They used a van, which was used for a lawn-mowing service. It had petrol cans and things like that in it."

The Nelson Mail reported Ms Paterson's plight two weeks ago. She and her daughter have lived in a flat in Stoke for 4 1/2 years, which flooded six times in that period due to burst pipes.

Her monthly power bill was more than $600 some months, when the agency used industrial fans and dehumidifiers to dry the house out.

Housing NZ then accepted fault and offered to pay compensation for her power bills and to help her move into a new state house.

Ms Verdonk said the moving company contracted by Switched on Contracting was not up to standard.

"I wish that I was the housing minister of New Zealand, because I would be rectifying things like this. If it was me, heads would be rolling. I'm angry, because it's not right," she said.

Switched on Contracting manager Nicholas Chin said the moving company sounded "unusual", but he did not know the details of the situation.

Mr Chin said Switched on Contracting dealt with about 1000 jobs a week in Christchurch, Marlborough and the West Coast, most of which were for Housing NZ.

The branch in Nelson subcontracted most of its jobs for Housing NZ out to other companies, he said.

"The contractors that we utilise have been working for us for quite a while. All our contractors are vetted. There's a very strict induction," he said.

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Mr Chin said Switched on Contracting usually gave Housing NZ three pricing options for jobs. "The work we do depends on the instructions we receive."

- The Nelson Mail

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