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Fancy a manhole in your bedroom?

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  • Fancy a manhole in your bedroom?

    A manhole in your son's bedroom? You might find that sort of thing in a Third World country but surely not in Mt Albert? John Landrigan follows his nose.

    From the end of the long drive, it looks like we're entering a builders' demolition yard.

    Down the back of the large suburban property is an unfinished two-storey house. It has stood partly-finished for a while.

    We walk past the original house on the site - paint peeling, rotten wood, the chimney anchored with a metal strap. Welcome to Iain Matthew's castle.

    Mr Matthew, who happens to be a builder, has been on the wrong side of Auckland City Council for some time.

    A court case is pending over the state of his property, but this is not why we are here.

    He takes us to the basement of the original house, a 1940s' bungalow he bought 21 years ago. He moves a bed, lifts the carpet and opens a manhole so we can peer down at the stinking flow of raw sewage below.

    Yes, the doorway to a river of sewage is in his home. It is broken, and it has been so for at least seven years, he says.

    "I've been a builder for 30 years and never come across a manhole inside a house. It smells.

    It smells real bad. The family were becoming physically sick, suffering sleep deprivation and headaches."

    Mr Matthew has verification from two separate drainage consultants saying the pipe has "major faults".

    A Hydro Tech Drainage Services report says it has "cracked joins, root-bound connection, broken outlets, broken bending in manhole which is also located under the house in Mt Albert".

    The damage affects at least 10 houses on Willcot St. This, then, is not just a problem for Mr Matthew but, also, for his neighbours.

    He says the land is subsiding. The chimney is pulling away from the house, windows and walls are cracked.

    "I'm asked to renovate. But why will I do that when I know it is sitting on contaminated ground? The house is twisting itself inside out, the windows and walls are cracking and there's a huge lump in the lounge floor."

    In 2002, Mr Matthew learned of the hole in his son's bedroom after he discovered his path had been dug up.

    It took a few months but he later found out Metrowater was looking for a manhole. Mr Matthew found the plans, the hole and then the damage.

    For seven years he has asked Auckland City Council and Metrowater, its water and wastewater contractor, to fix the pipes and to seal the manhole.

    He has pleaded with councillors, former Mayor John Banks and his local MP - Labour leader Phil Goff - to no avail.

    He's contacted The Aucklander after a council staff member said it's no longer the outgoing council's concern.

    It is now the problem of the new amalgamated authority.

    A Metrowater spokesperson says it's a council problem. Auckland City Council says to contact Metrowater.

    Auckland City Council building inspections manager Tim Weight says it is a Metrowater asset and Metrowater is dealing with the problem.

    "Any sewer issues regarding smells should, in the first instance, be directed to Metrowater as the council provider," he says.

    Metrowater says the house was built on top of the manhole - in the 1940s - so it is the council's problem.
    The hole truth?

    A spokesman for the water and wastewater contractor, who refused to be named, says Metrowater has inspected the site on "a number of occasions" in response to customer calls.

    "Metrowater has not on these visits recorded evidence of any specific spills from the public network."

    He says Metrowater is not aware of other cases where manholes are located inside a private house. "It is Metrowater's understanding that consent would not normally be granted for such construction as unrestricted access is required to all public wastewater and stormwater manholes."

    That consent came from Auckland City Council. When Mr Matthew bought the house 21 years ago there was no record of it being built on a manhole.

    From next Monday (November 1), Metrowater will cease operations as Auckland City's water and wastewater service provider.

    Watercare Services will provide both bulk and retail water and wastewater services for the entire Auckland region.
    Last edited by BusyLizzy; 14-11-2010, 10:34 AM. Reason: added photo

  • #2
    Hell's Bells. Block the bloody thing, that'll get some action.


    • #3
      I hate to say it, but this is not the first that I have seen.I think he needs to file a compliance service request- NOW. Then publish it in the sunday star.


      • #4
        Take a bucket filled with "sample" and place it in the foyer of the council building?