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The culvert behind Chris Kemp’s property is eroding the bank. He has been trying to get it fixed since December. Photo: SUPPLIED

Lack of Thames Coromandel District Council communication ‘frustrating’

A Thames ratepayer has resorted to Facebook and the media to follow up a query to the district council, after facing seven months of inaction he thought may result in further damage to his property.
Chris Kemp contacted Thames Coromandel District Council in December, when he noticed erosion by a culvert behind his Brunton Cres property.
The property, which he bought in September last year, has a creek running through it. The bank was filled with weeds, and when he started clearing it out, Chris noticed the land below the house was beginning to erode.
“On either side of our property [the creek] is piped… it comes out at great force in the weather and it hits straight on to a sort of bank by us where the water pools out. You can see where it slowly erodes away at the land.”

Chris said he had initially found cracking in the land around the base of the house, and seven months after contacting council, he was concerned that it would deteriorate further, affecting his home.
“I’ve photographed it and dated things so I can track it,” he said.
“It’s not that bad but I just know … that if things get left over time, erosion… can happen.”
Chris contacted the council to get the issue fixed.
“When I first started [Thames Coromandel District Council] messaged us back saying it’s not our issue, it’s the Waikato [District Council]; so we messaged them and they came back saying it’s not theirs, it falls under Thames. I thought, ‘Oh my god, here we go’.”
Since then, Chris said he has had minimal communication from the council, despite lodging multiple service tickets over email and phone.
“We’ve had two people turn up but unannounced. It’s just the weirdest way they communicate, I’ve never quite met anything like it,” he said.
“One day there was someone standing in the creek cleaning it out, and [he said] he was sent here by the council.”
On June 29, Chris resorted to a public social media post, naming the council and asking for a response.
He got an email from the council that same afternoon stating they had received his correspondence. After The Profile made further enquiries with the council on July 5, Chris received another email with a timeline and plan to get the issue rectified.
“It seems every time I mention our issues to someone, the council seems to step up its game. This email arrived today not long after we spoke.
“The last email I got from [the council], they said they were looking to appoint a contractor to work through it. So I guess that’s taking responsibility, isn’t it?” Chris said.
Chris’ Facebook post garnered several replies from community members stating they also had issues getting a response from the council.
“I know it’s not a big issue but if I would have just heard this one bit of correspondence back saying look, we’re aware of the situation, we’ll get back to you – but there was nothing,” Chris said.
“I [now] have a name and a person to talk to, which I’ve never had before, but it’s taken probably seven months to get that. It could have been straight away.”
Chris, who works in property development, said the fix was a simple one requiring some sort of gabion rock wall or erosion cage to help dissipate the pressure from the flowing water.
“It’s a very simple thing to rectify but we just need clarity from the council because it is their responsibility, we can’t go in there and fix it,” he said.
“I know exactly what to do, I just think I would be charged with some environmental thing if I went and did it myself.”
Council confirmed the stormwater drain behind Chris’ property was part of the council’s drainage network, and said the repair work had now been approved.
“Due to the range of priorities around the district that the team and contractors have been resolving, this job was not progressed as quickly as we would have liked,” a council spokesperson said when asked about council’s lack of communication.
“In recent weeks, a design has been completed for improvement works that will aim to mitigate the issues experienced as a result of the high stormwater and debris flows. This work has been approved and is currently being programmed.”