Our records are not accurate, that’s why we won’t take responsibility

Vicki Gundesen dug and dug to find a sewer pipe which didn’t exist.

The Waitara woman bought a section of property in the Taranaki town about two years ago.

Prior to purchase, Gundesen went to the New Plymouth District Council to make sure the section was connected to sewerage.

She wanted to build a toilet block to use when she wasn’t travelling with a gypsy fair and parked her house bus on the land, she said.

The council’s survey photo indicated there was a sewerage connection to the section, but when she queried the disclaimer at the bottom of a photo she was told, “it means it might come into the section at a different place”, Gundesen said.

Initially Gundesen and a friend dug deep along her property line, searching in vain to find the pipe. When they had no luck they called in Vid Pro contractors, who could not find any evidence of a connection despite coming out twice with CCTV cameras to look underground, she said.

“It’s like the invisible pipe,” she said, “If I had known it had not had sewage I wouldn’t have bought it.”

Gundesen felt that by having to pay for the sewerage connection herself, she was really paying for someone else’s mistake, Gundesen said.

“I thought I might get a, ‘we’re really sorry we will sort it out for you’.”

New Plymouth District Council infrastructure manager David Langford said with 1,670km of water, wastewater and stormwater pipes and mains in the district, it was impossible to have completely up to date data to work from.

“A lot of the information we have is historic and from very old records that pre-date modern technology, such as GPS location,” he said.

That may very well be.  But if the council can’t trust its own records, it needs to place a rider on any advice for areas where it knows it may have phantom facilities.  Not doing so, well, makes you responsible for fixing it and covering costs.

The council has offered to pay the $267.38 cost of getting in Vid Pro to search for the pipe, a cost they would have likely incurred through LIM report investigations, Langford said.

“So in the spirit of good will we have offered to reimburse these costs,” he said.

“The cost of connecting to the sewer network remains the responsibility of the property owner as is the case for all property developments.”

What a bunch of slimy toads.   “Oh, it’s not there even though we told you it was”, not our problem.  Bye!


– Taranaki Daily News


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  • Hakaru

    Our neighbours in Auckland spent 15thousand designing in extra foundations and support along with having to buy pipe to replace the stormwater pipe that supposedly in the ground below where the garage was going to be built. I pulled my map out showing the existing pipes in the area and the phantom pipe was not on it. He went back to council who assured him it was. Dug up the ground and were unable to find it. He was lucky in that council reimbursed him for some of the problem but he wound up with a very expensive piece of pipe that they could not get a refund on. They also would not refund him for the extra engineering costs that he had incurred to make sure he was legal. A law unto themselves.

    • biscuit barrel

      Why were they supposed to know about something done many years ago. When I worked in this sort of thing many years ago, we would have manholes lifted to see what was on the map was in the ground.

  • biscuit barrel

    Her problem is she didnt get a LIM so shes out on a limb on her own. The courts have decided that no lim no chance of council being legally responsible. Dont even relie on the Lim agent provides, if going ahead with buying, get your own lim

  • Jimmie

    Councils are monopolies and and appear not to be subject to the law of supply and demand or the need to keep customers satisfied.

    The only restraint on their bureaucratic attitudes is the occasional slapdown from the Courts but in general they tend to have an attitude of, “Why should we care?”

    Doesn’t affect their 6 figure salaries and who are you anyway? A sloth of a rate payer.

    But if you don’t pony up your $2-3000 rates this year we will care very much indeed. Penalties, Court Action, Sell your house.

    In this case – no skin off any Council employees nose that she was mislead by their false documentation and suffered financial loss – why should they care?

  • rantykiwi

    Sure, the council have dropped the ball somewhat but I think there’s an element of CBOTW here too. She was always going to have to do some sewage piping works anyway, the cost of the connection permit isn’t going to be high, so all she’ll be out of pocket for is a bit of extra pipe and labour. She also omitted to get a LIM which would almost certainly have found this issue – in which case caveat emptor.

    She obviously blew her whole inheritancre on the land, and something sub-$10k shouldn’t be the end of her world. Maybe getting a job and not prancing around following a gypsy-fair might solve some of her fiscal issues.

  • Rick H

    I read this item on another site , and immediately had alarm bells ringing in my head.
    If the Council have not kept records up-to-date – – -there is absolutely NO WAY their records would show a non-existant connection.
    It would be the complete opposite.
    They would show “no connection” – -when in fact there was one.
    Never the other way round.

    Using the ages-old excuse of the data being taken from old manual systems – what a crock of whatever.
    It still would never end up with a connection being on the new system, where there was not one.

    By the way, I currently work in a place that updates council asset data.
    I know what I’m talking about.