South Auckland homeowners plan to take on NZTA over property damage from Southern Motorway construction

Residents of a south Auckland suburb are lawyering up and plan to take on the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), saying construction on a neighbouring motorway has damaged their homes.

The Conifer Grove homeowners say it's not just their properties that have suffered, but also their mental health.

Widening work on the Southern Motorway outside Conifer Grove has been going on since April 2016. It was supposed to be completed by late 2018.

"I don't know how they haven't managed to finish what they've been doing. And the motorway now is even worse," says resident Gayleen Smith.

For the houses alongside it, it's been four years of sleepless nights.

"If you can't get to sleep by 10 o'clock at night, you can't get to sleep, because they start at 10 at night. And when you can get to sleep, because they're not working on a Friday or Saturday night, you just worry all night," says Dianne Walker.

The houses sit on soft peat soil. Residents say vibrations caused by the construction are causing flooding, moving foundations, and cracks.

Walker and her family have lived in Conifer Grove for thirteen years.

"We've tried to sell our home. We can't sell it. We're stuck," she says.

She wants the NZTA to acknowledge fault, and pay to have their home re-clad.

"We're not going to give up. We can't afford to give up. We've got no other option."

But Walker says no amount of money will fix the toll it's taken on her mental health.

"You just break down all the time and try not to think about what it's done to your home and your family. You drink, because you want to get some sense of relief from the pain. And obviously that doesn't last long, does it?" Walker says.

"Most of us in the Grove are into the antidepressants and sleeping pills now. It's a case of finding a way to cope," says Smith.

Walker and Smith's cases, along with 15 other homes, has been taken up by lawyer Adina Thorn, who along with Mike Ring QC plans to launch a class-action lawsuit against the NZTA.

"NZTA are engaging with us. I mean they still seem as deaf as a road cone to me. But, we are engaging and I'm hoping after today there'll be some serious discussions to bring resolution to this," Thorn told Newshub at a picket organised by the homeowners.

The NZTA says of the 53 complaints it's received, 10 required no further investigation. Twenty-eight were assessed by an independent expert. And of those, five were found to have damage attributable to the Southern Corridor works: all of it cosmetic, and primarily to gib linings within the interior of the building.

In a statement, it told Newshub the priority is to "do the right thing for property owners while also recognising the responsibilities of managing public money".

The NZTA says it will repair or pay for the repair of any damage found to be caused by the construction work.

"It probably happened innocently by NZTA. But they've damaged these homes, they need to fix them, or they need to pay for these owners to move on," says Thorn.

Move on from a four-year headache, and finally feel they can get to sleep.