End to Hamilton woman's broken stormwater pipe nightmare
Christina Campbell can finally smile after a two year battle with bureaucracy over her backyard that disappeared into a gaping hole.
The Hamilton woman's 10-year garden project at her gully property on Valley Terrace was left with the five metre wide hole from erosion caused by a broken city stormwater pipe.
But on Tuesday, at a Hamilton City Council growth and infrastructure committee meeting, councillors voted unanimously to cover the $591,000 fix up cost and take ownership of the pipe.
"It's light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel," Campbell said.
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The stormwater pipe was installed in the 1950s but was not on the LIM report when Campbell bought her home.
It drains water from a neighbouring property through the gully system to the Waikato River.
Campbell was gardening in September 2015 when she noticed erosion across the fence in part of the gully system.
She called council immediately but over the next two years, the erosion crept across her boundary and gouged out five metres of her section, about three metres deep.
Council also argued the pipe was illegal but documents showed it was consented in 1951.
Campbell restored her gully with more than 2000 trees and grasses. Woofers - Willing Workers on Organic Farms - visit and help with the planting.
Her chicken coop, made from bamboo growing on the property, teeters over the edge of the hole. Her grapevines, lawns, berries and other plants were lost to the erosion.
It's been a "nightmare", she said and has cost her thousands of dollars and countless sleepless nights.
Campbell said interest in the story from Stuff helped her get "justice".
"It's been a struggle to cope with the associated costs of promoting a sensible resolution, taking into account the costs on myself, the wider community and ratepayers," Campbell said.
At the committee meeting, councillor Garry Mallett was concerned the move to take ownership of the pipe, which sits on private land, was a policy breach and Cr Rob Pascoe asked if paying for the pipe on private land was precedent setting.
City infrastructure general manager Chris Allen said the decision had the potential to set precedent but Campbell's was a special case.
"There are some quite unique circumstances around this particular issue," Allen said.
"We've looked at all angles and we think this is the most pragmatic and the only way forward for this particular pipe."
Council will negotiate easements with the three property owners to gain access to the stormwater pipe for future maintenance and repairs.
The final decision will go to a full council meeting.
Campbell is now looking forward to work starting in the summer so she can get back to rebuilding her prized garden.
"I've planted out my section over a 10-year period now to help bring back the tūī," Campbell said.
"I love to create beautiful environments and I love to share it with friends, family and the international community."