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Samaritans sort out domestic shambles

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2011
ian johnson
ROBYN EDIE/FAIRFAX NZ

TIDY BAR: Invercargill resident Ian Johnson will entertain Burt Munro Challenge visitors inside his once decrepit house.

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Burt Munro Challenge

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The owner of a decrepit Invercargill home has been humbled by the generosity of strangers and friends who have helped him begin cleaning up his run-down property.

Ian Johnson hit the headlines this year when his Lowe St home was named by The Southland Times readers as one of the six most decrepit properties in Invercargill.

His home had no hot water, a toilet with only half a wall, a leaky roof and an overgrown section with old vehicles scattered around.

A stranger who is a retired builder has since offered to build him a new toilet wall, and work is expected to start this weekend; a roofer mate has patched up the holes in his roof; another friend has shown him how to fix his lawnmower, so he can now mow his lawns, while another mate has helped him paint and lino his bathroom.

Mr Johnson said two grates had been put into his coal range so he could now light the fire, meaning he had hot running water for the first time in years.

Their efforts were appreciated, he said.

"I am pretty humbled by it, actually. They didn't have to do it. I never asked anyone to help me."

And now the Invercargill City Council has decided his house is not a health risk.

The council had referred Mr Lowe's case to the medical officer of health, who sent a doctor round to visit him.

"He was a nice old chap. He said the city council asked him to check me out because they were worried I was living in squalid conditions and it could be affecting my mental condition."

"He said I seemed quite lucid," Mr Johnson said.

"I showed him through the house."

The city council's environmental and planning services director, Pamela Gare, confirmed that the medical officer of health has decided Mr Johnson's house constitutes a health risk neither to the public nor to himself and that the council will take no further action.

Mr Johnson, who was worried the council would boot him out, is delighted by the news.

"I will claim that as a victory, I will put a V sign out the front."

He is now looking forward to the Burt Munro Challenge later this month. Mr Johnson has invited event visitors to his home so he can tell them about his old friend, the late Burt Munro, and give them a drink at the impressive bar inside his home.

He expects about 50 people to arrive, and his neighbours have offered to help feed them.

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- The Southland Times

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