Tips to cope when the leaky roof comes down

 Source: The New Zealand Herald

By Anne Gibson
Wednesday May 19, 2010

An apartment owner in one of the country's worst-affected rotting blocks wants to help thousands of others through the leaky building nightmare.

So Robyn Horsfall wrote Life Lessons From A Leaky Building, Strategies for Personal Resilience, available as an e-book for $24 at

Rod Emmerson, the Herald's cartoonist, created six original drawings for the 59-page book that tells people how to change their lives, think positively and survive in better shape.

The book has been released at the same time as the Government unveils a leaky-home deal for victims to drop litigation in return for its paying 25 per cent and councils matching that.

Horsfall lives in Parnell and for the past 5 years has been on Farnham Terraces' body corporate committee.

She has been chairwoman for the last 18 months. The block was put up in the mid-1990s and is one of New Zealand's worst-affected rotting complexes.

The 41 units are on Farnham St off St George's Bay Rd, below Parnell Rd. Owners have filed a claim in the High Court at Auckland for $26 million.

They suffer from cracked cladding, walls built too low, no flashings on courtyard walls, tiled exterior terraces built higher than interior floors, water pouring into the garage underneath, decayed wood and breaches in the waterproof membrane beneath paths and decks.

"I'm a great believer in trying to see the funny side in situations," Horsfall wrote, citing some bizarre events which arose from living there. The irony of having to maintain a rotting building's warrant of fitness for fire safety did not escape residents.

 "Nor has the geological feature of stalactites growing from our carpark ceiling where water has leached minerals out of the concrete," she wrote.


Robyn Horsfall, a unit owner at one of New Zealand's worst-affected buildings, has been battling since 2004.  Photo / Brett Phibbs

Robyn Horsfall, a unit owner at one of New Zealand's worst-affected buildings, has been battling since 2004.

Photo / Brett Phibbs

The block was developed by various Symphony companies whose owners include ex-NBR Rich Lister and former Chase boss Colin Reynolds.

Demolition was seriously contemplated. "Experts tell us that because of fundamental structural issues and myriad other issues, our best solution is to tear down and rebuild the entire complex. This has resulted in ours being one of the largest claims in New Zealand leaky building history and it being strongly contested by the defendants," Horsfall said.

Owners started legal action in 2004, expecting it to take just 18 months. Symphony has fought the owners, bringing an application to strike out their claim in 2007.

"An initial case, an appeal and a further application for appeal later - all of which they lost - we are now gearing up to go to court for our actual case in October," Horsfall said.

"We have spent in the region of $1.2 million on legal fees, experts' costs and remedial patch work to keep the complex liveable. Our current estimates are for almost as much again to cover both preparatory work and an eight-week case if we actually go to court in October.

"I'm sure you can begin to appreciate the stress and financial strain this has caused all of us as owners ... Everyone of us has a story," she said.

The New Zealand Herald


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