Lower Hutt mayor walks back on demands for investigation into plumbing

8:03 am on 27 December 2019

The mayor of Lower Hutt has pulled back from his earlier demands for an investigation into substandard plumbing at a retirement village.

Woburn Apartments in Lower Hutt.

Woburn Apartments in Lower Hutt. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Almost 100 units at the Woburn Apartments are still waiting for final approval of repairs, more than 18 months after a plumber warned of serious health risks.

Before he became mayor at the October local body elections, Councillor Barry criticised the previous mayor Ray Wallace for not launching a full investigation immediately after he personally was warned about the plumbing, in early 2019.

However, Mayor Barry's spokesperson now says that any review of the council's role in approving the plumbing "is an operational matter".

It would be "dealt with through the chief executive and is not being pursued through the Mayor or his office".

Documents show the council's consents team approved plans done by engineering company Beca that were wrong; they omitted a crucial backflow preventor at the hair salon. Beca has refused to comment.

The council inspectors signed off on faulty plumbing.

Having issued a code compliance certificate already - though on noncompliant plumbing - the council now says it has no role in ensuring the repairs are done properly.

It was, however, having meetings with the Masonic Villages Trust which had "confirmed that work to remediate the apartments is progressing to the point where most apartments are nearing sign-off", the council said.

The Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board has investigated but declined to release its report to RNZ, saying the matter was ongoing. It is understood it might prosecute the plumber.

The council is not doing its own investigation, but waiting to see the board's report, when "any recommendations about our role will be fully considered".

It told RNZ to contact the Masonic Villages Trust about who is supervising and signing off on the repairs.

The Masonic trust said repairs were completed, subject only to receiving a final site observation report due around mid-January.

"Those involved in the remedial works include the original contractors and consultants,[and] this has ensured that the contractual integrity of the construction contract remains," it said in a statement.

"Our builder Armstrong Downes as the principal agent will be providing us with confirmation of the certifying plumber, but subject to that confirmation we expect it to be Virtual Plumbing."

Virtual Plumbing installed the plumbing in the first place.

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