Auckland Floods January 2023 - Landslip - stable or unstable?

Auckland’s January Floods – Can You Fix It? – Part 2

January 𝐅𝐥𝐨𝐨𝐝𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐲𝐜𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐞: Is 𝐀𝐮𝐜𝐤𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐜𝐢𝐥 on top of the situation and are they able to prevent further damage in time?

I reported back on February 2nd that the land next to my house, which is owned by Auckland Transport (aka Auckland Council), had a major landslide with an estimated several hundred cubic meters of earth slipping down the hill and completely filling a large pond. In the footage above you can no longer see the pond and some of the trees that were bordering the pond have now moved some 10 meters or so south.

The update from Auckland Council’s perspective is simply the area was issued a yellow placard, really a piece of paper saying RESTRICTED ACCESS. Well, the subsequent cyclone a week later caused even further damage to this area, further questioning the slope’s stability abilities.

The three council workers who visited the slip between the January floods and cyclone, of which only one actually walked down the hill informed me to pin the piece of paper to a fence to stop other people walking on their land, yes, you read that right, their land!
 
The council assessor said they would send out a geotechnical team to assess the landslide within 2 weeks due to the nature of the slip and the close proximity to our concrete driveway.

Good news right? Well no. It’s now nearly 14 weeks later and still no sign of the geotechnical team.

A Story of a Lack of Accountability and Attention to Detail…

I understand that Auckland Council are busy but what is really disappointing is that I received an email from the council saying, and I quote “𝐋𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈𝐧𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐌𝐞𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐮𝐦 (𝐋𝐈𝐌); 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐲 𝐨𝐰𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐛𝐞 𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐫𝐞𝐝, 𝐲𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐡𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐛𝐞 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐲’𝐬 𝐋𝐈𝐌.” Again, this is not our property; it’s Auckland Council’s, and we do not want their land problem on our LIM. so, their basic investigations have led them to assume that this is our land and not theirs. Did they even check?

Let’s assume that this was just an oversight and should any information be incorrectly recorded on our LIM (Land Information Memorandum) then it should be fairly easy to resolve, right? Well, in my experience the answer is unfortunately no. So let’s hope Auckland Council realise their error and record this slip on their own land.

Again, this is not our property; it’s Auckland Council’s

So where does this leave us? Well, no closer to a resolution and a situation where we may have to take matters into our own hands and get the slip fixed at our own cost. This wouldn’t have been a concern had it been our land but it’s not. And will we be potentially breaking the law if we do remedial work on someone else’s land?

A final thought…

The Auckland Council has never maintained this land, nor have they undertaken weed control or maintained their fences. Despite our very high rates, there are no footpaths or street lighting on our main road, and the road was resurfaced a year ago but is now in worse condition than before. The right-of-way leading to our property, which is used by eleven residents, is maintained by the owners, not the council.

We spent over $50k on our rainwater retention and dedicated all-in-one septic system, which was a mandatory council requirement for our building consent. We have no regular bus services, and we disperse our greywater through a dedicated treated water dispersal system and soakaway areas that feed our planted 1,000+ trees and plants. We have no services other than mains electricity, so I should question where our rates go. Should our rates be based on household usage rather than perceived property value? I think I’ll park this somewhat contentious subject for another time.

While I have some sympathy for Auckland Council we need a council that plans and manages properly. Auckland cannot allow developers to keep building on top of already stressed infrastructure, with inadequate off-street parking, plantings and stormwater soakaway management. Water is a property’s biggest enemy and we need to think more about how we manage it, including the materials we use in our builds.

New Zealand is approximately 10% bigger than the United Kingdom in land size and has 7% of the population size. Is it possible to shift New Zealand’s future development focus outside of Auckland to areas that can accommodate growth easily and are less susceptible to flooding? Can we invest in better infrastructure links to encourage businesses and families to move outside of Auckland? Does anyone see the potential or can’t we see the wood for the trees?

Auckland’s mayor, Wayne Brown, stated that the council is not responsible for the damage caused by the floods and subsequent cyclone, and will not bail out badly affected houses. (Link)

While I can see his point of view, I believe Auckland Council should shoulder some of the blame for a lack of adequate stormwater planning. We simply cannot keep building on top of an already heavily stressed built environment and think everything will be ok.

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