Friday, August 22, 2014

Harcourts & Tenancy Tribunal Bond Scam

Did you know that as a NZ tenant you can be taken to court for the following allegations by a Harcourts property manager?

* Dirty oven.
* Dirty kitchen & dining ceilings - fly spot, cobwebs, cooking residue. [Dirty kitchen walls, for appointed cleaning Complete Home services to inflate his invoice.]
* Uninstalled kitchen blind. [Owner installed, according to appointed Complete Home Services invoice].
* Dirty [kitchen] cupboards, draws [sic Appointed Complete Home Services' addition to inflate his invoice].
* Marked bathroom window sill.
* Residue, soup [sic] on bathroom shower walls. [Mould remaining around seals, quite black, suggest removing & replacing, according to appointed Complete Home Services, to inflate his invoice].
* Dirty marks on an unnamed wall.
* Replacement of light globes. [Materials purchased - Light globes to be replaced x 4, according to Complete Home Services, to inflate his invoice].
* [Light shades, switches & plugs all cleaned, according to the cleaning contractor, to inflate his invoice].
* Dirty carpets. [Although already cleaned by our own professional cleaner].
* [According to Complete Home Services, to inflate his invoice: Carpets to be professionally cleaned  as the carpets are dirty. Lounge carpets are very dirty, some staining still remaining, some parts of carpet has been treated with cheap product which has bleached the stains & has left lighter patches].
* [Bedroom ceilings to be cleaned to remove fly dirt throughout, according to Complete Home Services, to inflate his invoice].
* [NB Ceilings required extensive cleaning, fly spots being there a while & some have left staining although all residue has been removed, according to Complete Home Services to inflate his invoice].
* [Scrubbed kitchen, laundry & bathroom floor removing ingrained dirt in pattern, according to Complete Home Services to inflate his invoice].
* Grass removed from garden beds. [This vanished from Complete Home Services' invoice].

Harcourts property manager, Kim Jones emailed us twice more:

* There is a smell of cat urine & claw marks in the middle bedroom, is this historical or caused by your cat? Please advise. [According to Complete Home Services, to inflate his invoice: Treated cat smells in two bedrooms. Suspect some in other rooms but the two end ones were quite strong].
* The cleaning of all light fittings also to be included on the cleaning list. Light fittings are very dusty & greasy. [There were only 6 light fittings in the shabby house & garage. The rest were bare light bulbs].

The above is a composite list of allegations from Kim Jones' 02.07.14 Final Inspection report (after we left 5 Heath St, Burnside, Christchurch) with her cleaning contractor's 23.07.14 invoice, which Kim Jones later emailed us.

Harcourts cleaning contractor's invoice prices: Various cleanings, as above $235; Professional carpet cleaning $175; [Our professional had already cleaned the carpets for $100] Cat smells $120; Light globes $6. Total $536 (incl 15% GST).

The invoice total by Harcourts appointed cleaning contractor was remarkably similar to our bond of $510 (two weeks rent, 2004 prices). Harcourts financial controls must be appalling, if it allows such a discrepancy between one of its property manager's inspection list for cleaning & its appointed Complete Home Services invoice being so obviously inflated to rip off a tenant's bond. Given Harcourts lax control of Complete Home Services' invoice & NZ Tenancy Services lodging millions of bucks of bond money from NZ tenants, there must be myriads of cleaner parasites syphoning off bond money from tenants. (Old NZ Tenancy Services is now included in the new Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, MBIE).

Although most of Kim Jones' cleaning items & Complete Home Services' invoice items were false, or cherry-picked half truths to steal our bond money, Kim Jones threatened us by 02.07.14 email as follows:

The above [sic] items have been noted as not being completed. These items are to be remedied, we are appointing our tradespeople to attend to these, and the cost for this will be sort from your bond...

I have photos of all these items, should you wish to view them.

Once I have received the trades persons invoice, I will advise you by email, and send you the bond refund form to be signed.

If you dispute the charges being deducted from your bond, we will be required to file for this to be heard at tenancy services, for an adjudicator to make a ruling...

Kind regards, [Oxymoron].

Kim Jones - Property Manager.

It turned out that any incompetent, unreliable, inconsistent, malicious property manager could take tenants to court, without tenants given the opportunity to remedy the alleged cleaning required, without the opportunity to verify the cleaning done by a Harcourts cleaning contractor & with Harcourts property manager blocking mediation, as she wanted the Tenancy Tribunal to adjudicate a decision & to humiliate tenants & steal their bond money. What a scam!

This was our experience with Harcourts property manager Kim Jones, her appointed cleaning contractor & NZ fascist govt, Tenancy Tribunal. But not quite.

Those malicious Harcourts employees tried to destroy our good reputations. The landlords tried to destroy our reputations with their indifference & using Harcourts to do their dirty work. Two decades ago, as immigrants we'd gone through a long selection process through NZIS, including police checks in SA & NZ. Harcourts & our landlords were now trying to smear our good name in the Tenancy Tribunal..

In the meantime Leah & I moved our possessions from Christchurch & Lake Tekapo to Fairlie, a busy couple of weeks settling in during Leah's teaching holidays. Luke helped us move one of our 2 trailer loads from Christchurch to Fairlie. Our old computer was bung, so we borrowed a neighbour's laptop to catch up with emails, where we found Kim Jones' Harcourts email about her Final Inspection of 5 Heath St. Harcourts choice of words sounded like a Final Solution, evil.

My 17.07.14 email response to Kim Jones Final Inspection emails:

Dear Kim,

We have been offline since moving to Fairlie.

We left 5 Heath St house, garage & garden in a clean & tidy condition.

Your 3 emails are noted. Most of your observations refer to wear & tear over our 10 year tenancy at 5 Heath St. Although you have inspected the house twice before, it is the first time you have arrived at such conclusions & email reporting.

For the record, a Harcourts man didn't arrive more than once for the first inspection. You then later on changed an inspection appointment because you were sick, then didn't keep that inspection appointment. We received no explanation for your absence despite our inconvenience. You also did not have a house key for several months to do initial inspections. You will recall me asking you at the last inspection if you had a key, you affirmed, then texted me later when I was walking on Harewood Rd asking for a key...

Recently I drove from Lake Tekapo with a key, at great inconvenience & expense as Justine Heyward [Harcourts Administrator] demanded a key, so that someone could look at windows. We have dates on record. A few days after giving Justine the key, I noted that someone had tried to get into the garage as both garage doors, which I had secured, were displaced. (Despite being attended to by Harcourts after my request when you first inspected with photos, Harcourts contractor didn't fix both garage doors properly).

Since Harcourts has managed the the property we have had weird inconveniences. Examples: 


1. A man phoned us & said Harcourts had asked him to phone us about what was needed to be fixed on the property.
2. A man arrived at our front door with ladder & liquid soap asking about window cleaning. 

When I finally gave Justine the house keys, I informed her that curtains had been cleaned  & carpets had been professionally cleaned with bathroom windows left open to remove moisture.

Our cat has been living with us at Lake Tekapo / Fairlie since February, long before we had the house carpets cleaned, so your allegations about cat urine & scratch marks are nonsense. [Check how the above cleaning contractor's invoice had morphed Kim Jones' cat urine smell in one bedroom to cat smells in 2 bedrooms & other rooms, although our cat hadn't been in the house for 5 months.]

Regarding light bulbs several lights had not worked properly for years, like in the second & third bedrooms. Like the broken gutter pipes outside bedroom 3, this was mentioned to the owners years ago. The faulty bedroom lights flickered a lot, or didn't work, even with new bulbs. [Funny how Kim Jones & her cleaning contractor both call light bulbs, light globes].

On the day I left & the day before when carpets & kitchen floors were professionally cleaned , I took many photos of all rooms, garage & garden, showing  we'd left the property in a clean & tidy condition, so dispute your email inspection report entirely.

BTW we added value to the property by regularly cleaning house & garage gutters & trimming shrubs & neighbour's shrubs & trees overgrowing the garage. We also left a flowering cherry tree & daffodils in the front garden. We left prolifically fruiting lemon tree, nectarine tree & grape vine in the back garden. Years ago after the bathroom was revamped we disposed of the cast iron bath, wall debris & cabinet rubbish which the contractor had left behind. At our own expense we left 3 metal standards propping up the dilapidated garden metal fencing. At our own expense, I repaired the tree house with solid wooden bracing, as the wooden supports were weak, rotten & hazardous. (I informed the owner about this). At our own expense, I regularly did minor repairs to the house, replacing tap washers, replacing washing line & broken toilet seat, fixing window fasteners.

Mark JS Esslemont

Copies sent to [owner] Eleanor Bremner & Harcourts senior management.  

That stimulated Kim Jones to file a claim against our bond with the Tenancy Tribunal.

Breadwinner Leah's 17.07.14 letter to owners Graeme & Eleanor Bremner:

Dear Eleanor & Graeme,

Enclosed is a copy of the communication sent to Harcourts.

Over the [10.5] years we were at [5] Heath St, we felt there was a lot of goodwill and mutual respect between us. We treated it as our home and kept it as well as we could, seeing to minor repairs ourselves whenever we were able to.

Our [approx 10 months] relationship with Harcourts from the start has been stressful and sometimes upsetting. The man who initially made contact with us was abrasive over the phone. [Leah had to deal with all our phone calls as I'm profoundly deaf]. He then made appointments and either didn't turn up or arrived up to an hour late. At times I had left work early to be at home for these appointments. 

When Kim took over from him, she also made an appointment which she was too ill to attend. She sent me a text giving a changed appointment and never kept it - We were never informed why she didn't arrive. I likewise made arrangements to adjust work for this.

Over the time the property has been managed, many of our interactions with them have been unsatisfactory - When someone was sent to fix garage doors, they remained unable to be secured.

After having rent smoothly paid for many years , we were contacted about a week after they took over, saying we had rent in arrears. [Harcourts administrator, Justine Heyward]. Once more, this was distressing and I took time away from work to go to the bank, only to find that our rent had been paid. - This was why we disputed a communication from them [Justine Heyward] at the end of our stay at Heath Street, saying rent was owed. Unfortunately for us, on checking, we had made an error and then paid the final week owing. Sorry for that!

At one time I had a phone call from a man who said that Intotal at Harcourts had asked him to find out from us what things needed fixing!

When [2] home inspections have been done, prior to us living in Tekapo, Mark was usually at home. Since then, there appears to be an issue with a key. We were recently phoned [Justine Heyward] and asked for a house key for someone to see the windows. Mark drove to Christchurch to give them a key! [Over 400 kms return]. 

During the 9 plus years, [sic] we have made adjustments due to wear and tear. For example, replacing shower curtains, replacing the cat flap and replacing the toilet seat when it broke. We also purchased a new blind years ago because we saw one at a sale and the one in the kitchen was faulty - As we didn't like using a blind, we stored the new one and left it at the house for you. Harcourts now want to charge us to put this in place.

We understand that having left the property with property managers, you wanted someone else to deal with these things. However, you also asked us to let you know if we were unhappy. 

From our viewpoint this is the first experience we have had of property management [in NZ. In South Africa, Wakefields managed our investment, rental property in Durban]. We have spoken to friends who have been in a number of managed properties. They assure us they have always been treated with courtesy and respect by the property management  people at other places who they have dealt with. This has not been our experience.

Sincerely, 

Leah and Mark Esslemont. 

No response from owners Eleanor & Graeme Bremner.

While we waited for Kim Jones' cleaner's invoice to arrive, I wrote a 14 page memo to Kim Jones & Justine Heyward, copied to owners Graeme & Eleanor Bremner. I titled the 04.08.14 memo: 5 Heath St , Burnside, Bond Transfer & Tenancy Ongoing Care, Repairs & Maintenance (10.5 years).

Description of 5 Heath St: On our arrival in 2004, Graeme & Eleanor's 3 bedroom rental was old, cold, damp, grubby & shabby, with peeling wallpaper & wooden windows in dire need of a coat of fresh paint. Owners junk, like concrete rubble & metal, was left in the back garden & stuffed between the garage wall & a neighbour's fence.

Front & back wooden doors, both had weak door locks. The weak back door needed a coat of paint & had a dodgy cat flap. Glass panes on the front door needed new putty. The double garage side door & main door also had weak locks.

White enamel paint peeled off scuffed, wooden skirtings in all rooms. Most of the old wall paper & ceilings were painted white or cream. One bedroom's walls were lime colour, with a ghastly aeroplane frieze. Another bedroom's walls were powder blue. There was adequate kitchen drawer & cupboard space, but the cupboard doors were either painted purple, or white, a ghastly combination. Laundry cupboard doors were also painted purple. Bedroom cupboard space was inadequate. (For 10.5 years, we stored many of our possessions in boxes in the garage).

One bedroom cupboard was covered with a maroon curtain, likewise the linen cupboard in the passage was covered with a pastel curtain. Other inadequate bedroom cupboard doors were painted yellow & powder blue, more ghastly combinations. Only 2 rooms had thermal curtains leaving a cold house. Above the kitchen sink was a faulty, filthy Venetian blind.

The house had no underfloor heating, or fireplace, or heat pump. The main bedroom had a wall heater below a maroon curtain, but we never used it as it was a fire hazard. The passage had a fire alarm by the linen cupboard. The lounge, passage & 3 bedrooms had blue wall to wall carpets.

The lounge TV jack was loose & was replaced. One bedroom plug blew up & was replaced. Mod cons were sparse: a faulty stove which was replaced by owners after 5 years; 3 phone jacks. Only the kitchen, lounge, toilet & laundry had cheap, plastic light shades. Other rooms had bare light bulbs. Two bedrooms had faulty lights, which either flickered when switched on, or didn't light up at all. Those faulty lights were never fixed by owners during our 10.5 years tenancy.

Kitchen taps leaked & the toilet cistern pipe leaked. Wooden wall boards between toilet & laundry were loose. The toilet wall board had a dark stain where the toilet outlet pipe had leaked. That crap stain remained during our 10.5 years tenancy. Not exactly The Ritz

Kitchen, laundry, bathroom & toilet floors were covered with pinky or blue lino. The shabby bathroom was revamped after a couple of years, but we had to put up with contractors' noise for a week & their construction debris left in the back garden.
 
Like the house, the garage had cream-coloured, aluminium cladding. The house roof had red grit, tin tiles. The garage had brown-coloured, corrugated aluminium, roof sheeting. There were 2 garden taps, one protruding from a bedroom wall into the back garden, one protruding from the kitchen wall into the front garden. The wooden postbox was on the corner of the picket fence by the driveway entrance. The garage had a broken window pane which was boarded on our arrival. One of the bedroom window panes was cracked on our arrival & was never fixed during our 10.5 years tenancy.

Behind the garage was a rickety tree house & a rickety, aluminium, garden shed which we never used. The back garden had a corrugated iron fenced enclosure for composting, with rotten, wooden fence supports & rickety metal gate. Two metal gates, at sides of the house, separated back & front gardens. On one side of the house, a gravel & cracked concrete driveway went to the garage. On the other side of the house, a concrete slab went to wooden decking at the back door.

A green nylon awning, suspended by nylon ropes, covered the back decking. Like the paint peeling windows, gutter down pipes peeled white enamel paint. The shabby house was never painted during out 10.5 years tenancy. One of the gutter down pipes was broken on our arrival, held together with electrical tape & for most of our tenancy lay on the concrete slab near the back decking. Owners didn't fix it.

Back yard fencing painted brown, needed a fresh coat of paint. Front yard picket fencing was OK, painted red. When we arrived in 2004, the garden was dessicated with dry, brown grass. The garden was filled with trees & shrubs, needing regular trimming & pruning.

On an early visit by us to the property, before we tenanted, owner Graeme was weeding the gravel driveway & Eleanor was fretting about Korean tenants not telling her water was pouring from a laundry wall pipe onto the back decking. Those early impressions showed us that the house & garden was high maintenance.

Over our 10.5 years tenancy we paid Graeme & Eleanor Bremner over $142 000 rent.

If the reader made a list from the above 2004 property description, about all the early faults in the shabby house we rented from Graeme & Eleanor, the reader will understand how outraged we are receiving cleaning slurs from Harcourts. True to form, owners Eleanor & Graeme remained passive & indifferent through the whole Tribunal farrago.

Some extracts from my memo:

5 HEATH ST, RENT INCREASES BY OWNERS & SOME OF OUR TENANT INTERACTIONS WITH HARCOURTS PROPERTY MANAGEMENT

There were 2 rent increases by owners during the inflated rental market, caused by earthquakes 2010-2013. We paid good money for a small, old, cold, shabby house.

Recent property management by Harcourts just inflated our rent more.

When first asking for a rent increase owners' 14.04.12 letter stated, "We very much respect that you are very reliable tenants & we certainly hope that this does not affect your decision to continue your rental with us..." The second rent increase was mismanaged by Harcourts.

Prior to Kim Jones' Final Inspection, after we left 5 Heath St on 24.06.14, Justine Heyward had posted us a letter dated 03.06.14, acknowledging our tenancy ending on 27.06.14 & included a Final Inspection Guide list, which didn't mention anything about cleaning ceilings, light fittings or light bulb replacement, which were referred to in Kim's Final Inspection email, dated 02.07.14. We cleaned & tidied everything according to Justine's Final Inspection Guide list, as we'd received no formal guidance from Kim about cleaning.

After Kim's 2 inspections on Nov 2013 (approx 15 minutes, late afternoon, "The house is good") and May 2014 (approx 45 minutes) Kim did not send us any written reports nor guidance, about her 2 inspections, so we had no idea of Kim's inspection requirements, nor standards. Neither did Kim verbally, by text, or phone give us any negative feedback regarding her 2 inspections. Prior to Kim's final inspection, suffice to say at Kim's initial form-signing visit to 5 Heath St on 18.08.13, Kim said she wanted the toilet well cleaned, which we obviously did.

My wife Leah could not attend Kim's Nov 2013 & May 2014 inspections as she is breadwinner. But I made myself available to Kim at both her inspections. In hindsight, I now know Kim didn't have a workable house key for 5 Heath St. Without our tenants' presence how did Kim think she could do any house inspections at 5 Heath St, when Kim knew she didn't have a workable key for 10 months?

Kim will recall on her May 2014 inspection, before I left the house for a walk to Papanui ANZ bank (my car was being serviced that day) I asked Kim twice whether she had a key to lock up when her inspection was complete. She affirmed, but about half an hour later when I was walking on Harewood Rd, Kim texted me asking for a house key, as her's didn't lock the house front door. (Kim actually wanted me to stop my business & return to lock the house while she waited for me!) I texted Kim to close the door & go, which she did. After I returned to 5 heath St I texted Kim saying the  house was OK. Kim replied, relieved, saying she was "very worried." That text conversation can be retrieved by telecom.

Kim will recall on 04.06.14 that Justine phoned my wife at Lake Tekapo, demanding a house key for someone to see windows at 5 Heath St. Why didn't Justine demand a house key from the owners who lived closer to Christchurch? I drove over 200 kms from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch to give a house key to Justine on 05.06.14. Justine made a copy of the key. I'm still waiting for a key receipt. 

Days later, on one of my weekly trips from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch, I found that someone had tried to enter the garage, as both side & main door were displaced - securing stone & bricks, concrete & iron pipe were displaced. The side door wasn't closed properly.

As Harcourts property management of 5 Heath St was only in the last 10 months of our tenancy, Kim Jones could not possibly know all the improvements, repairs & maintenance we did to the house, garage & garden, using our own labour, money, tools & expertise. Before arriving in NZ, we owned several properties in South Africa & looked after 5 Heath St as if it was our own. Of course owners Graeme & Eleanor Bremner knew that, but used Harcourts to lose our goodwill. 

After owner Eleanor brought a Harcourts man on an early inspection, she asked both Leah & myself, separately, if we could dob in Harcourts if we were unhappy with Harcourts. We felt manipulated between owners & Harcourts. We only informed the owners about our Harcourts grievances in a letter dated 17.07.14 [above] after we received Kim's Final Inspection email.

After our departure from 5 Heath St, Kim emailed her Final Inspection cleaning list to us, dated 02.07.14, a concocted list of cleaning allegations, cherry-picked by Kim to steal our bond money, to enrich Harcourts appointed contractors. Kim did not give us the opportunity to remedy her Final Inspection list. That is corrupt.

Before leaving Heath St on 24.06.14, I took many photos of the clean & tidy condition we left the house, garage & garden. In fact for the last 5 months of our tenancy, since Leah & I moved to Lake Tekapo in February, I commuted from Lake Tekapo to 5 Heath St, on average once a week & stayed there 1-3 days at a time. I mentioned this to Kim during her May 2014 inspection. My  purpose was to relocate our possessions from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo. So whenever I moved any of our possessions at 5 Heath St, furniture, etc, I did frequent cleaning - dusting of walls, skirtings, window panes & window sills, cleaning carpets, cleaning bath & basin & shower area, cleaning toilet, cleaning sinks & garage, etc. I also did frequent gardening & tidying of the garden & garage. Whenever Leah returned to Christchurch to lecture, she did the same. So before our departure on 24.06.14, ongoing cleaning & tidying of house, garage & garden had happened for 5 months. prior to Kim's Final Inspection.  

Example of our cleaning care: About 2 months before we left, after cleaning out linen & bedroom cupboards, I placed sprigs of lavender from the garden into each cupboard, including a kitchen cupboard, to freshen up the cupboards. We removed the lavender before we left. 

When we were at Lake Tekapo, friendly neighbours kept an eye on 5 Heath St, collected our post & returned Council bins back to the garden after Friday refuse collections.

Despite our son Luke being blasted out of his girlfriend's house in a recent storm, roof partly blown away at New Brighton, our sons did not stay at 5 Heath St during our Lake Tekapo sojourn. (We'd asked Eleanor if Luke & girlfriend could stay at 5 Heath St, but declined Eleanor's offer for them to stay). Our sons rented elsewhere.

My photos show we left 5 Heath St in an exceptionally clean & tidy condition. Our cleaning repairs, maintenance & care of the property over 10.5 years went way beyond mere calling the owners to come & do repairs. We did minor repairs & maintenance ourselves, at our own cost. If we'd called the owners for every little thing that was wrong with their property they would've had to travel to Christchurch much more over the years.

IMPROVEMENTS, REPAIRS & MAINTENANCE WE MADE TO 5 HEATH ST HOUSE, GARAGE & GARDEN DURING OUR 10.5 YEARS TENANCY (Our own labour, tools & expense including rent)

The following house repairs & maintenance, some done by us & some done by owners & their contractors, gives an idea of the dilapidated, shabby state of the rental we lived in for 10.5 years.

... [Regarding the above mentioned water pouring from the laundry wall pipe onto the back decking, the flooding was] soon fixed by owners, but over the years water stains appeared on the kitchen ceiling, despite patch painting done by owners after that flooding repair.

Need for house & window painting already described. We regularly dusted loose enamel paint flakes from window sills during our 10.5 years' tenancy. Sunlight aggravated the window sill paint peeling & paint flake problem, causing cracking of window sill paint & more dust. (What toxic lead poisoning did we inhale from that loose paint over the years?) But the owners knew about that & Kim would've seen that hazardous paint dust during her inspections.

We endured 2 EQC inspections with owner Eleanor present at 5 Heath St. It would be interesting to know EQC payouts to the owners?

In 2004 on our arrival at 5 Heath St, wooden boards covered the garage, broken window pane. After a while a board rotted causing rain to puddle the garage. I replaced it with another board, then later repaired the window gap with corrugated iron found amongst junk by the garage. That stopped water damage to the garage interior. Years later when owner Eleanor asked about the iron sheet, I told her why I'd repaired the broken window gap. Owners seemed content to leave my repair as is. At Kim's Nov 2013 inspection I asked Harcourts to repair the glass pane, which Harcourts did. In other words that garage window didn't have a glass pane for at least 10 years.

Worn garage door locks & latches: Both garage side door & main door blew open during the Sept 2013 gale, which blew down oak trees in nearby Guildford St & blew down birch trees in nearby Greers Rd & Clyde Rd. The gale finished off the garage worn door locks. At Kim's Nov 2013 inspection I asked for Harcourts to repair the worn locks. A Harcourts contractor tightened screws which soon loosened. Thereafter, till the end of our tenancy I secured the garage doors with barrow, bricks, stones, concrete & an iron pole. So much for Harcourts appointed contractor repairs!

During autumns & winters, as there were no mod cons in the house, like heat pump, heating or log burner, we had to daily open windows & wipe condensation off window panes to stop unhealthy mould growth, wood rot & curtain rot. All users.

Aluminium & perspex wind vane made by [son] Jake - left above garage main door. 

Years ago, as the garage main door wasn't opening & closing properly, after our request, owner Graeme fixed rivets on both sides of the garage main door.

Wooden letter box & front wooden picket fence was fire-bombed late one Guy Fawkes night early in our tenancy. If I hadn't seen & extinguished the blaze, the fire could've had serious consequences, as the picket fence was connected to other wooden fences, connected to the back decking & house. My family was asleep in the house at the time. Owners covered cost of a new metal letterbox & red paint for the fence. I installed the letterbox & painted the scorched fence. We left a bucket of red paint in the garage. We also left a "No Advertising Material" aluminium sticker on the letterbox to foil junk mailers. That sticker stopped most junk mail.

Leaky kitchen taps were replaced by owners' contractor after our request.

Leaky toilet cistern pipe was replaced by owners' contractor, after our request. He didn't put in the washer, leaving a worse leak than the old pipe. Our son Luke installed the washer to stop the leak. (I informed owner Eleanor about this).

Replaced worn tap washers when needed - Mark.

Replaced worn & broken, white toilet seat - Leah.

Fastened loose window catches when needed - Leah.

Fastened loose, white plastic & wood door knobs on kitchen cupboard doors & drawers when needed. Several were loose on our arrival - Mark, Luke.

Worn upper door lock on front door, caused door to not lock properly. After discussion with owner Eleanor we started to use the lower door lock & key. In hindsight, I guess Eleanor gave Harcourts the upper door lock key, hence key hassles for Harcourts & us.

When the back door swelled after rains & tilted, it caused the door & lock to stick. I planed the wooden threshold to ease opening & closing of the door. I also installed a top bolt on the inside of the door to ease strain on the door lock. I removed the bolt when we left. Kim would've noticed that top bolt during her inspections. 

After our requests, owners replaced faulty electric wall plugs in lounge & bedroom 3.

Painted the tree house powder blue, installed a carpet & an orange, plastic curtain door - Luke, friend & Leah.

As the tree house was hazardous due to rotten & weak wood piles & bracing we installed stronger wood bracing & piles below the tree house - Mark, Luke. (I later informed owner Eleanor about this).

Replaced worn cat flap on back door 2  months before we left. The new cat flap was never used by our cat - Mark.

Replaced worn washing line - Leah, Mark.

Strengthened wood supports of rickety metal gate on corrugated iron fence in back garden. After wood fence supports rotted, I replaced them with iron standards to stop the fence collapsing - Mark.

After snow storms snapped nylon ropes supporting the green, nylon awning above the back decking, we replaced the nylon ropes. After several breakages, we placed the Council refuse bins under the awning during snow storms, to preserve the ropes & awning. The bins supported the snow tonnage - All users.

Hoovered wall to wall carpets regularly (own Tellus machine) - All users.

Cleaned kitchen & laundry sinks daily - All users. 

Revamp of bathroom by owners mentioned above. Cleaned bathroom plastic bath, basin & shower walls daily. All users. During inspections Kim would've noticed our cleaning cloth over the shower curtain rail. Kim would also have noticed there was no bath soap dish. [Had to supply our own soap dish!] The shower, plastic soap dish in the wall corner was regularly cleaned by me, even underneath - Mark.  

Replaced old, blue, plastic, shower curtain with new, green, plastic, shower curtain before we left - Leah. Over the years we replaced 2 shower curtains due to wear & tear. 

Replaced old, worn, blue curtain with new, blue curtain & white thermal backing in bedroom 3 - Leah.

Stove was regularly cleaned inside & out - Leah, Mark. After our reporting old stove faults, the owners replaced the stove about 5+ years ago (Mentioned above). Kitchen floor boards are weak & wonky below the stove, due to age of the house & wear & tear. If Kim had issues about our regular stove cleaning, she didn't speak up during or after her Nov 2013 & May 2014 inspections.

During early days of our tenancy we bought a new Venetian blind for the kitchen, as the old one was faulty & filthy. As we preferred net curtains above the kitchen sink, we stored & left the new Venetian blind for the owners / new tenants. Now Kim wants to steal our bond money to install the new Venetian blind.  

Regularly swept & mopped kitchen, laundry, toilet & bathroom floors with disinfectant & cleaning liquids - Leah, Mark.

Regularly cleaned toilet. All users. Used Bloo Loo to sanitize cistern water.

Al curtains were cleaned & dried at a professional laundry in the CBD a week before we left. All curtains were rehung - Mark.

All blue, wall to wall carpets were professionally cleaned on 23.06.14, the day before we left. (Receipt copy available on request) - Mark.

Near the end of our tenancy, electricity went off in the garage, caused by a storm. We didn't tell Harcourts, as we'd lost confidence in Harcourts' reliability. If we intended staying at 5 Heath St, it would've been easier to pay our own electrician to fix the garage electricity, instead of dealing with unreliable Harcourts.

3 days before end of our tenancy, on 24.06.14, when I handed house & garage keys to Justine at Harcourts, Hornby office, I informed her the following:
* House clean & tidy.

* Keys handed in to Justine - house, 3 front door, 2 back door; garage, 3 main door, 3 side door. Justine will also have the key copy she made after her demand for a key for someone to see windows. We didn't ask owners for refunds for several duplicate keys we made. Justine didn't supply a receipt for keys.
* Curtains cleaned last week.
* Carpets professionally cleaned yesterday. Left bathroom high windows open to remove wet carpet moisture. (If Justine listened, she could've told Kim the carpets were professionally cleaned).
* Water meter turned off & water pipes drained to stop freezing water damage to pipes.
* Electricity switched off & electricity meter reading noted.

Justine gave me a receipt for part payment of our last rent. Once we realized our mistake about the disputed last week's rent we promptly paid by posted cheque. It was the only time in our 10.5 years tenancy that rent wasn't paid timeously.

I then supplied a list of labour, materials & tools we hadn't invoiced the owners, so far.

5 HEATH STREET GARDEN IMPROVEMENTS & MAINTENANCE DURING OUR 10.5 YEARS TENANCY. Our expense, labour & tools - mainly done by Mark.

In 2004 at start of our tenancy, owner Eleanor said she wanted the front garden clean & tidy, but didn't mind what we did in the back garden.

Gardening was a huge job over the years, using our expertise, electric mower & garden tools, which are now worn out, depreciated & need replacement. Some like rake, lopper, spade, garden fork, were stolen & replaced by us some years ago. 

* Weeded & mowed front & back lawns when needed, using own electric Wolf mower.
* Mowed & trimmed grass verge when needed.
* Trimmed & weeded driveway edges when needed, especially by fences.
* Trimmed grass edging around house, garage & compost fencing when needed.
* Weeded & trimmed grass around flower beds & vege beds when needed.
* Trimmed & pruned shrubs & trees when needed: 1 azalea; 3 pittosporums (fast growers, 1 needed frequent pruning below telecom & electricity overhead cables. Neighbours' tree by the driveway entrance needed regular pruning for the same reason) 1 flax; 3 hebes; 2 deciduous flowering cherries (1 planting, gift from a neighbour) 2 camellias; 1 daphne; 1 St Johns wort (frequent pruning needed as it is close to the letterbox) 1 choisya; 8 deciduous rose bushes (2 died) 1 deciduous plum tree (prolific fruiter & leaf litterer) 1 sage (died) 1 lavender planting; 1 deciduous lemon verbena planting; 1 lemon tree planting (family gift) 1 deciduous grape vine planting; 1 deciduous nectarine planting; mint planting; 3 deciduous ferns.
* All deciduous trees & shrubs needed much leaf litter disposal. 
* One neighbour's sycamore maple - recently axed - was a prolific windblown seeder. I weeded 1000s of sycamore seedlings over the years. His deciduous sorbus tree also sent much windblown red berries & leaves into the garden, requiring my disposal. I pruned overhanging branches from the neighbour's sycamore when needed.
* Another neighbour's sycamore branches overhung the driveway & roof above the front door. It needed frequent pruning over the years of our tenancy to stop car, roof & gutter damage. [After Chinese neighbours sold the house & the house was vacant, I axed most of the sycamore pest by the driveway]. Later Indian neighbours pruned that sycamore.
* Never mind autumn raking & disposal of windblown oak leaves blown into the garden from Guildford St.
* Trimmed numerous shoots from neighbour's trees growing through the back decking.
* Disposed of tons of garden refuse, either by using Council green bin, or mainly composting in the back garden. I left approx 10 cubic metres of rich compost in the back garden, vege beds, filled with seed potatoes & pumpkin seeds for the owners / next tenants. Compost was enriched by our kitchen organic waste, occasional kelp & horse dung additions (Leah) & commercial compost.
* Disposal of fallen plum tree branches after the Sept 2013 gale.
* Disposal of rusted, half iron trellis for front garden, pink climbing rose (needed frequent pruning).
* Repaired driveway ruts, which formed puddles after rains. Added soil or shingle as needed. During Kim's Nov 2013 inspection, I pointed out bits of broken concrete driveway close to a gutter down pipe, as I was concerned gutter rainfall flows would undermine the driveway & house below overhead telecom & electricity cables.
* Put small stones at bottom of gutter down pipes to stop mud.
* On our arrival in 2004 there was lots of junk in he back garden: a heap of concrete rubble; wood; car tyres; metal; bricks; polystyrene wall panels. We disposed of some. The rest is still beside the garage by a neighbour's fence. We lived with the owners' junk for over 10 years. Never mind the visual pollution of a hoarder, neighbour's junk on his shed roof, which stayed in situ for rover 10 years, despite my complaint to him.
* Soon after our arrival in 2004, I put concrete rubble slabs by the garage main door to ease car entry, as the garage concrete floor was above soil level. The concrete slabs also stopped car tyres bringing mud into the garage. I informed owner Eleanor of this.
* Swept the garage floor daily.
* Soon after our arrival, I rearranged the concrete rubble heap as flagstones beside the tree house, to stop mud caused by neighbour's overhanging trees.
* Watered garden when needed... Garden grass was always green after our care. Grass cutting mulch & composting helped.
* Cleaned decomposing leaf litter & sycamore seedling debris from house & garage gutters when needed - bucket loads of decomposing, organic debris at a time. If I hadn't done that there would be much more rust & damage to the gutters now.
* Garden plantings, as mentioned above. Our own expense, labour, tools:
* Mint planted by house back wall - Leah.
* Daffodil bulbs planted below flowering cherry in front garden corner - Mark. 
* Crocosmia corms planted in some front & back garden flower beds - Mark.
*  Seed potatoes & pumpkin seeds left in the back garden composted, vege beds (approx 10 cubic metres of compost left) - Mark.
* Ornamental cherry tree, neighbour's gift, planted by front garden fence - Mark.
* Lemon verbena bush & lavender bush plantings, latter planted from a cutting brought from Halswell by Leah. Replaced dead sage bush in back garden. During Kim's May 2014 inspection, she remarked on the lavender bush, but made no comment about the beautiful grass tufts alongside. Now Kim wants to steal our bond money for an appointed contractor to remove the grass!
* Nectarine tree, prolific fruiter, in back garden, planted from seed by Leah. The nectarine tree was planted in a raised flower bed, which former tenants had used as a grass cutting dump.
* Grape vine on back fence, prolific fruiter, planted from seed by Leah.
* Lemon tree, family gift, prolific fruiter, planted behind garage by Leah.
* We also planted an apple tree & an orange tree, but axed them as they were fruitless.

Our gardening care, expertise & labour added value to the property for the owners.

I then supplied another list of labour, materials & tools we hadn't invoiced the owners. Not yet.

CONCLUSION

What is happening about our bond transfer?

No response from owners Graeme & Eleanor Bremner.

Only after receiving this memo did Kim Jones wake up & email us Harcourts appointed cleaning contractor's Invoice, as compared by me with Kim Jones Final Inspection list above. This email exchange followed:

Kim Jones 07.08.14 email:

Please find attached cleaning charge.
Please advise, do you accept this to be deducted from your bond, or do you wish to have this heard at the Tenancy Tribunal? [Harcourts has obviously got away this scam before!]

Bond held at Bond Centre is $510
The cleaning account $536.00 [Similarity between bond & Complete Home Services invoice is too good to be true!] 
A balance of $26.00 

Please advise

Kind regards, [Huh?]

Kim Jones - Property Manager

Intotal Property Management

Our email response, 08.08.14:

In response to your email:

We do not accept that the charges be deducted from our bond. We want this to be heard at the tenancy tribunal...

After more emails, I asked to see with my own eyes what cleaning was done by Harcourts appointed cleaning contractor at 5 Heath St.

Kim Jones' 10.08.14 email response:

We are not in a position to allow you access into or even onto the property (5 Heath St). There is a new tenant now living in the home, so access is now out of the question.

Regards Kim.

There's an Afrikaans saying summing this up: "n Huis agent is laer as kreef kak. A house agent is lower than crafish crap." 

My 12.08.14 email response: 

It is noted:

1. After your 2 inspections at 5 Heath St, in Nov 2013 & May 2014, you gave us no negative feedback regarding our house cleaning or gardening.

2. Harcourts Final Inspection Guide list, posted to us by Justine Heyward, doesn't mention changing light bulbs, cleaning fly spot from ceilings, nor cleaning light shades. As mentioned before, we stuck strictly to that guide list while cleaning before we left 5 Heath St. Most of our cleaning was progressively done in the 5 months before we vacated 5 Heath St, while I returned weekly from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch to relocate our possessions. 

3. You allowed us no opportunity to remedy your dubious Final Inspection report.

4. You have disallowed us inspecting the so-called cleaning done by your cleaner, who invoiced Harcourts for what we already did - cleaning all drawers, & cupboards, all floors & carpets, all curtains, all walls, all window sills, all switches & plugs, stove, bathroom. That you have stopped us seeing what your cleaner did at 5 Heath St is a travesty. That includes your cleaner bleaching carpets, after our professional cleaner had already cleaned all carpets on 23.06.14. Your cleaner's cleaning bed board marks is laughable as there were none.


You & your cleaner referring to cat smells is also laughable, as our cat was with us at Lake Tekapo since February 2014 & you would've noticed a brand new, locked, cat flap on the back door during your May 2014 inspection. You would've also noticed we'd already relocated most of our possessions & there were no cat smells. It's ridiculous that after we left on 24.06.14 you & your cleaner come up with cat smells to charge our bond $120 for cleaning cat smells.  

Funnier still, your Final Inspection report incorrectly spells bathroom soap as soup. Likewise your cleaner's invoice also incorrectly spells bathroom soap as soup. I can assure you your cleaner, we Esslemonts never consumed soup in 5 Heath St bathroom, nor left soup on the bathroom walls.

5. Your cleaner's invoice is vague & not detailed. I have no idea what your cleaner means in the invoice regarding, "etc, etc... suspect..." 

It looks to me your cleaner knew our bond was $510 & invoiced Harcourts accordingly. 

6. Your excuse about a current tenant preventing you allowing us access to inspect your cleaner's dubious cleaning is a cover-up, to rip us off more than 2 weeks rent signified by our $510 bond.

On Monday 11.08.14, I checked out your cleaner's premises at 23 Kirner St, Burwood. It's a quake damaged house & junk yard: heaps of old car tyres & old white ware in the front yard, furniture junk on the front decking, mattrasses stored behind a ranch slider door. The filthy state of the Kirner St premises doesn't give me confidence your cleaner did much cleaning at 5 Heath St.

That Monday, I also looked at 5 Heath St from the pavement: Daffodils I'd planted in the front garden were in bloom. Our new Venetian blind was hanging on a kitchen window. Gutter down pipes were still flaking white enamel paint. Wooden windows were still peeling white paint. Someone had sprayed Roundup on driveway weeds & by the garage door. Above the garage, Graeme & Eleanor Bremner still kept Jake's wind vane flying. Our "No Advertising Material" sign was still on the letterbox. Graeme & Eleanor Bremner expediently kept our "free" improvements to their property.

Along the still rutted driveway, wonder of wonders, there were empty ceramic pots for pot plants & to cover Roundup yellowing. Next to the pots, lo & behold, Graeme & Eleanor had installed a new heat pump, which our rent had obviously paid for. Pity Eleanor & Graham hadn't the grace to install it during our 10.5 years' tenancy. Their indifference left us cleaning condensation off their windows every autumn & winter in their cold, damp and shabby house. Never mind during our 10.5 years' tenancy our electrical heating bills doubled during winter months.

Thereafter bureaucrats from the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) got involved. Jessica Lovell, case coordinator, 14.08.14 emailed us from Hamilton, inquiring if I wanted a sign language interpreter for the Tribunal hearing (an oxymoron). We told her I needed a loop system at the hearing for my hearing aid, as I didn't sign. When we asked for mediation, Jessica 18.08.14 emailed the following:

I have been in contact with the property manager and they have advised that they would prefer for the application to continue onto a hearing in the Tenancy Tribunal to get a ruling from an adjudicator therefore mediation cannot be attempted.

The hearing will take place on 27th August 2014 at 12.20pm and I will make the request to the Tribunal for the loop system to be arranged.

Via the MBIE, we then received by post, Harcourts paperwork for the Tribunal Hearing. In the end Leah & I decided not to go to the Tribunal Hearing & I emailed Jessica Lovell the following on 24.08.14:

We will not attend the Tenancy Tribunal Hearing at Orchard Rd, Harewood, Christchurch, 27.08.14, 12.20pm, as the the Tribunal will be too costly for us: Travel, over 200 km Fairlie - Christchurch return; Overnight accommodation in Christchurch; Paperwork; Photos; Stress due to my profound deafness in a Tribunal Hearing; Breadwinner wife having to take time off teaching at Lake Tekapo School to attend the Tribunal Hearing.

I will post you a file of emails & letters which Harcourts has obviously not forwarded to you. It covers all that needs to be said by us.

In a copy of Harcourts tribunal application, forwarded to us by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, Harcourts administrator Jessica Heyward's lie is offensive: "** Please note tenant is deaf and has requested a deaf signer.**"

I did not request a deaf signer. I do not deaf sign. I know no deaf sign language.

Given Justine Heyward's lie & the discrepancies between her house Final Inspection Guide list, property manager Kim Jones' Final Inspection cleaning list & Harcourts appointed cleaning contractor's invoice, we doubt Harcourts property management credibility.

Despite Kim Jone's 2 inspections at 5 Heath St, prior to her Final Inspection, Kim never gave us any negative feedback about our cleaning, repairs & maintenance, or gardening, after her 2 inspections.  

Only after we'd left 5 Heath St did Kim Jones email us her Final Inspection report. Which was the basis for Harcourts claim against our bond. 

Kim Jones / Harcourts did not offer us the opportunity to remedy her Final Inspection list, nor the opportunity for mediation...

Given our extremely negative experiences with Harcourts, our migrant friends, who are tenants, will be insisting on being present at Harcourts Final Inspections.

Leah posted the following to the Tenancy Tribunal on 24.08.14: 

We lived at 5 Heath St for more than 10 years and had a good relationship with the owners based on mutual respect and goodwill. In a letter written on 14 April 2012 informing us of a rent increase the owners stated, "We very much respect that you are very reliable and respectful tenants and we certainly hope this does not affect your decision to continue rental with us." (Appendix A - Letter from house owner).

[Golden goose Leah laid weekly eggs in a shabby house. Leahs' teaching salary mostly went on paying the rent. WINZ also gave us a weekly accommodation supplement, so Graeme & Eleanor's shabby property was subsidized by NZ taxpayers! Only after our departure for Lake Tekapo & Fairlie did Leah's salary increase, our Fairlie rent dropped & we were able to dispense with WINZ accommodation supplement.]

Harcourts took over the  management of this property in August 2013. This is the first time we ever lived in a house managed by a property manager. We had two house inspections prior to the final house inspection. No negative feedback about our maintenance was ever given to us during our entire tenancy.

When the keys were handed in on Tuesday 24 June, a window was left open to assist in drying the carpets which had been cleaned on Monday 23 June. (Appendix B - carpet cleaning receipt). There were no cat smells in the house at this time. Since February our cat has been living in temporary accommodation with us while working at Lake Tekapo.

When we were emailed by Harcourts on 1 and 2 July with feedback on the final house inspection, we were informed that, "The following items have been noted as not being completed. These items are to be remedied, we are appointing our tradespeople to attend to these, and the cost for this will be sort from your bond." (Appendix C - email from Harcourts). This gave us no opportunity to remedy these items. Neither did they allow mediation which we requested. It appears to be procedurally unfair. 

When we received the invoice for the cleaning organized by Harcourts, there was a significant discrepancy between the items listed after the final inspection and the items invoiced with an increase in the number of items dealt with. (Appendix D - items stated as incomplete by Harcourts. Appendix E - items re-cleaned by their appointed tradesmen). Once more this appears to be procedurally unfair. We were given no chance to check this work which our money is being used for.

We have chosen not to attend the hearing for the following reasons:

- Inequality and stress for my husband who has profound hearing loss and would be excluded from much of the proceedings, even with a loop system in place.
- Costs including travel from our home in Fairlie, loss of earning for the day off work. 

Adjudication is unfair & structurally violent (most emails we received from MBIE were anonymous). We were given no opportunity to resolve a simple problem with Harcourts - no opportunity to clean up Harcourts dubious allegations, no opportunity to see Harcourts, Complete Home Services dubious cleaning, no mediation. Yet Harcourts wants to steal all our bond money & more for their dubious cleaning. It left us with a dim view of Harcourts & our former landlords, who stayed silent throughout, despite us posting them copies of communications we had with Harcourts.

An anonymous 24.06.14 MBIE email stated: The Tenancy Tribunal can make a decision even if you do not attend the hearing. Decisions of the Tenancy Tribunal are a public record and will be posted online.

Thanks to Harcourts Kim Jones & landlords Eleanor & Graeme Bremner.

28.08.14, I posted the landlords the following:

...Dear Eleanor & Graeme Bremner,

INVOICE FOR HIDDEN COSTS DURING OUR 10.5 YEARS TENANCY AT 5 HEATH STREET, BURNSIDE, CHRISTCHURCH

Harcourts recent application to the Tenancy Tribunal to clean out our bond money and more at the end of our tenancy at 5 Heath Street, caused us to evaluate hidden costs we absorbed during our tenancy. 

Neither Harcourts nor you as landlords have acknowledged our hidden costs. Of course you have benefited from all our care, maintenance & gardening at 5 Heath Street during our tenancy.

Enclosed is our Invoice for some of our hidden costs at 5 Heath Street. Please pay by bank guaranteed cheque posted to the above address...

5 HEATH STREET, Mark & Leah Esslemont's INVOICE for some HIDDEN COSTS incurred during our 10.5 years' tenancy - January 2004 - June 2014

We did lots of ongoing cleaning, replacements of worn items, repairs & maintenance of house & garage & gardening during our 10.5 years tenancy. This has not been acknowledged by Harcourts nor owners Graeme & Eleanor Bremner.

We are NOT CLAIMING for the following:


* House repair & maintenance tools.
* Timber used for repairing piles & bracing for the unsafe tree house.
* Paint, carpet & plastic curtain for the tree house revamp.
* Timber used for installing a new letterbox after a Guy Fawkes firebombing.
* Our electrician's repairs to the new stove, due to faulty heating of stove plates & faulty stove door liners.
* Some plants we left in the garden, like lemon verbena, grape vine, lemon balm, peppermint, daffodils, crocosmia.
* Garden fork & garden spade stolen from us & replaced by us.
* Cleaning chemicals, cloths, Aqua Lazer steam mop & Tellus carpet cleaning machine.
* Small mats by back & front doors to stop mud in the house.
* Part disposal of junk left by owners at start of our tenancy, like concrete rubble & metal.
* Part disposal of  contractors' debris left after owners' bathroom revamp.
* Window cleaning, especially condensation in autumn & winter, 12 lots of house windows at a time.
* Verge mowing & lawn mowing.
* Weeding the garden.
* Trimming, shearing & pruning of grass edges, shrubs & trees & pruning of neighbours' overhanging trees.
* Watering the garden.
* Maintenance of muddy, rutted driveway.
* Garage interior cleaning.
* Wind vane made by our son, left on top of garage.
* Petrol expenses while shopping for house or garden repair & maintenance items.
* Electricity expenses for power machines like Wolf mower & Tellus carpet cleaner.
* Many light bulb replacements.

WE ARE CLAIMING for the following repairs & maintenance, replacements & improvements, especially gardening, we did over the years. Our house cleaning & gardening tools & machinery are worn out after 10.5 years tenancy at 5 Heath St.

Current prices & quotes were obtained from the following sources...

INVOICE  for labour, materials, machines & tools at 5 Heath St during our 10.5 years tenancy, Mark & Leah Esslemont

INVOICE [Individual Quantity, Price & Total not blogged]

DESCRIPTION

* Composted garden refuse left in vegetable beds, 10 cubic metres...
* Seed potatoes left in compost, mainly Van Rosa, 1 kg bags... 
* Pumpkin seeds left in compost, approx 2 pkts...
* Garage & house gutter cleaning (High ladder, roof hazards)...
* House & garage key duplicates...
* Petrol, Lake Tekapo to Chch return, house key required by Harcourts...
* Cleaning, drying & re-hanging of all curtains (Gloucester St laundry)...
* ALL CLEAN professional carpet cleaning, wall to wall carpets, 23.06.14...
* Pad bolt, 150 mm x 10 mm, for back door...  
* Dixine washers for tap repairs...
* Brass screws (Drawers, cupboards, windows, letterbox repairs)...
*  White plastic toilet seat (Sapphire Universal) replacement...
* 4 Way Cat Flap replacement, back door...
* Tellus bags for Tellus carpet cleaner machine (pack of 5)...
* Shower curtain, 2, lounge wall gap, 1, bathroom replacement...
* Blue thermal curtain replacement (DIY Swirl) bedroom 3...
* Venetian blind (Windoware) replacement for kitchen blind..
* Sponge mop (Mopamatic) for kitchen, laundry, toilet, bathroom...
* Mopamatic sponge refills...
* Mopamatic plastic bucket...
* House broom... 
* Plastic dust pan & brush set...
* Large garage broom (Old house brooms recycled to garage)...
* Toilet force plunger, large cup...
* Scrubbing brush...
* Coir mat, front & back door...
* Letterbox aluminium sticker, No Advertising Material...
* Clothes line replacement, 70 m...
* Polypropylene rope, 4 mm d x 12 m, for broken awning repairs...
* Worx electric mower (Our wolf electric mower is worn out!)...
* Long handle shovel (Stanley)...
* Leaf rake...
* Lopper (Fiskars)...
* Bow saw (Bahco Force)...
* Garden shears (Bahco)...
* Aluminium extension ladder, 1.8 m - 3.2 m...
* Axe (Atlas Trade)...
* Garden hose, 1.8 m x 12 mm (Gardena)...
* Hose fittings pack (nozzle, tap nut, connectors)...
* Wheelbarrow (Constructor)...
* 100 litre plastic storage bin...
* Secateurs...
* Hand trowel (Joseph Bentley)...
* Hand fork (McGregors)...
* Common thyme, Thymus vulgarus...
* Flowering cherry, Prunus shmidisu sakura...
* Lavender, Lavendula dentata...
* Lemon (Mayer)...
* Nectarine (Theo Ching)...
* Mint...

TOTAL   $4226.41

01.09.14. We received an email from Harcourts, Justine Heyward with an attachment from the Tenancy Tribunal basically saying we'd lost our $510 bond to Harcourts cleaning scam & in addition we owed Harcourts another $46.44.

Justine's threats: The amount is due immediately. Failure to make  payment within 7 days will result in further action to recover the debt. This will also incur further charges for collecting the debt...

IMPORTANT: No further correspondence will be entered into regarding the content or outcome of the order. This includes the owner of the property, any staff member of Intotal Property Management and any contractor engaged by us...

Moral: Don't deal with Harcourts Intotal Property Management, as my interactions, related above, have proved them to be an incompetent bunch of cleaning scammers, liars & cheats.

The Tenancy Tribunal's adjudicator, J Talbot's verbiage added insult to injury. J Talbot just read Leah's letter to the tribunal, but made no effort to check out my submission posted to Jessica Lovell (as elaborated above) & was duped by Kim Jones at the Tribunal. I bet Kim Jones' photos didn't show water leak stains on the kitchen ceiling, nor crap stains on the toilet wall, nor landlords' junk in the back garden, nor windows needing painting, nor broken widow panes, broken gutter pipe & faulty garage doors, which we endured for years in Graeme & Eleanor Bremner's shabby rental house.

J Talbot's 27.08.14 ruling: The Bond Centre to pay the bond of $510.00... to the applicant immediately...

Reasons:

1. I have considered the tenant's submissions [Not fully or fairly] that there are discrepancies between the list of landlord concerns emailed to the tenants in early July & the itemised cleaning account dated 23 July. [But J. Talbot does zilch about extra items concocted by Complete Home Services to inflate their invoice to steal our bond].

2. I am satisfied on the [bullshit] evidence of photos provided by the landlord and on the [bullshit] testimony of Ms Jones that in some respects the property was not left in a reasonably clean condition. [J. Talbot conveniently ignores the fact the Justine Heyward's Final Inspection Guide list didn't mention cleaning ceilings, light shades nor flyspots. Nor the fact that Kim Jones' previous inspections were paltry & that she'd given us no negative feedback about our cleaning up to her Final Inspection]. Further I am satisfied [duped] that the amount charged is reasonable for the work required. [Gullible J. Talbot allows Harcourts to scam our bond. Reasonable huh? Light bulbs cost 80 cents each at Pak n Save. $235.00 for wiping a cleaning cloth over surfaces already cleaned by us is a scam! J. Talbot conveniently forgets that Kim Jones disallowed us seeing with our own eyes the so-called cleaning done by Complete Home Services, for which J. Talbot reasonably wastes our bond money]. 

3. I have also considered the tenant's concerns that they were not given the opportunity to address [remedy] outstanding matters. I note however that the tenants returned the keys on 24 June and that the tenancy ended on 27 June. [So what?] There is no requirement for a landlord to give former tenants further opportunity to address [remedy] issues after the end of the tenancy. It is open to a landlord to simply attend to matters of concern and seek to prove to the tribunal that they can establish grounds for compensation orders. [Duping gullible adjudicators & making the Tribunal party to cleaning scams & bond theft. J. Talbot conveniently ignores one of Harcourts applicant forms which clearly states under Supporting Documents... Notice requiring tenant to remedy breach within 14 days... J. Talbot also conveniently forgets that Kim Jones refused us mediation]

4. I have considered the tenant's evidence that they carried out carpet cleaning immediately prior to the end of the tenancy. I am satisfied [duped] however on the photographs provided by the landlord that the carpets remained unclean at the end of the tenancy, and on the [bullshit] testimony of the landlord regarding foaming of specific carpet treatment materials that it is more than likely than not [huh?] that urine was present in the carpet in 2 rooms. [Foaming carpets are evidence of urine huh?] I am satisfied that the carpet cleaning and treatment costs incurred by the landlord are reasonable.  [Reasonable? $175.00 for cleaning carpets already cleaned by us for $100.00, plus $120 for treating alleged cat smells in carpets. That's $395.00 spent on cleaning carpets in 3 bedrooms, lounge & passage. J. Talbot is clearly gullible to bullshit by Harcourts & Complete Home Services).   

[I'll give you reasonable cleaning J. Talbot:. We spent $55.00 cleaning & drying over 20 curtains at Gloucester St laundry, then rehanging them at 5 Heath St. How come Harcourts, Complete Home Services charges $120.00 for soap to foam some carpets in a dubious quest for cat urine?].

5. I accept the landlord's testimony that 4 bulbs required replacement. [I accept that loose screws need tightening in J. Talbot's gullible skull. Never mind many light bulbs replaced at our own cost during our 10.5 years tenancy. I bet Kim Jones didn't tell J. Talbot about the faulty, flickering lights in bedroom 2, which had been faulty for years].

6. If an applicant is wholly successful in their claim the tribunal must order that the other party pay the applicants the filing fee for the application.

Moral: Tenants will have no chance against an idiot adjudicator at the Tenancy Tribunal, who sides with the landlord against tenants.

1. Tenants be warned! Your bond will be scammed by Harcourts, aided & abetted by an idiot Tribunal adjudicator.

2. Tenants be warned: 5 Heath St is a shabby, old rental & you will be treated shabbily by greedy landlords Graeme & Eleanor Bremner. They'll do walkabout inspections, or send their proxy inspectors like Harcourts, but will do few repairs & little maintenance.

Content Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See NZ Tenancy Tribunal.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Kettlehole Track, Lake Pukaki

Kettlehole Track on glacial Lake Pukaki terminal moraine is about 47 kms from Lake Tekapo. Kettlehole Track turnoff from SH 8 is just before Lake Pukaki spillway. Beyond Lake Pukaki dam is the busy Mt Cook lookout, public toilets & kiosk for expensive salmon treats.

A DOC sign states walking time is 1/2 an hour, but I'd found DOC walking times in the past notoriously quick, so I guesstimated mine & Leah's walking times for our short legs as double the DOC time, which proved correct. Then there was the additional 1/2 hour walking time round the glacial kettlehole, which a DOC board said was formed by a big chunk of glacial ice on the terminal moraine, which slowly melted, leaving the kettlehole.

The track undulates over sheep paddocks, past scattered moraine stones, with glorious views of Mackenzie Country, Southern Alps ranges & Lake Pukaki. We crossed 2 rabbit fences - the first over a stile, the next through an open gate, which I thought useless for detaining noxious rabbits.

Dominating the view is nearby Lake Pukaki, its terminal moraine, with SH 8 on it & lateral moraines going towards Mt Cook. Scattered pine forests on lateral moraines & wilding pines green-pollute high country golden views. A plaque at the top of Burkes Pass quotes someone recommending that settlers should plant trees, but their boring pines & larches spoil the view, like on Mt Cook station. I thought southern beeches would've been better plantings. Yet station owners nowadays still plant pine forests in Mackenzie Country.

Mackenzie Country snow capped panorama seen from Kettlehole Track:

S we saw Twizel embedded in trees, Mt Benmore & Lake Benmore.

E we saw Two Thumbs Range, Rollesby Range, Dalgety Range & Grampian Range...

W we saw Mt Stafford, Black Hills & Ben Ohou Range with peaks going northwards: Ben Ohou, Backbone, Mackenzie, Razorback, Dun Fiunary, Glentanner... Mt Sealy, Sefton, Footstool, La Perouse, Mt Cook.

Mt Sefton is seen from Kettlehole Track, but is not seen from the tourist lookout, as Rhoboro Hills obscure Mt Sefton views.

N & NE from Mt Cook we saw various peaks & ranges: Mt Wakefield, Mt Blackburn, Burnett Range, Nuns Veil, Gammack Range, Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson, Mt Mistake. Mt John & Lake Tekapo are obscured by Mary Range. Two Thumbs Range, Mt Richmond, Mt Ardmore & Mt Edward go SE to Burkes Pass.

The kettlehole, with a waterhole at the bottom, has 2 ecosystems: tussock grassland on the wet W slope & spiky matagouri on the dry E slope. On the still, high pressure system day we walked Kettlehole Track, Raolia australis, vegetable sheep growing beside the track, signed harsh alpine winds.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mt John Village & The Cairns, Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo village: Above SH8, close to Aorangi Cres, are 2 housing developments behind Lake Tekapo School - Mt John Village, named after Mt John Station & The Cairns, complete with golf course, lake & Alpine views. Both developments have new infrastructure & housing.

As both developments are close to farmlands, there are several farm tracks to be walked or jogged over golden hilltop grasslands.

Off Aorangi Cres, Andrew Don Dr leaves Mt John Village housing & becomes a gravel road going down to Tekapo River. Shortly along the gravel road, after going though a farm gate, one can follow a farm track up to the top of the hill. The farm track, sidling by a pine forest which stops erosion above Tekapo River, goes past a radio mast & continues on the other side of the hill to Canal Rd going to Tekapo A power station.

My favourite circular walk, or jogging, is to turn right at the top of the hill by another farm gate, after admiring Alpine views of course & follow The Cairns golf course fencing towards Mt John & SH8.

In the E, I see Mt Edward, Mt Maude, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Dobson, Two Thumbs Range, Mt Ardmore, Mt Richmond. In the NE, Roundhill ski resort beckons above Lake Tekapo. In the N, Two Thumbs Range curves W to The Thumbs peaks & beyond to Mt Chevalier. Closer Mt John obscures N views of Mt Erebus, Mt Sibbald & Mt Mistake.

In the W, Ben Ohau Range dominates with peaks from S to N - Mt Stafford, Ben Ohau, Backbone Peak, Mackenzie Peak, The Razorback, Dun Fiunary, Glentanner Peak, Mt Sealey, Mt Sefton. Thereafter, Braemar Dome & Mt Stevenson obscures Mt Cook & associated peaks. One has to drive along SH8 towards Lake Pukaki for those views. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills & all that.

Going downhill beyond The Cairns golf course, a reservoir on the left, the farm track turns left towards the airport, SH8 & Godley Peaks Rd turnoff to Mt John. A right turn & the airport track takes one above SH8 back to Lake Tekapo village. Along the way one can enjoy the views from 3 Lions benches above SH8. The circular walk takes about an hour.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lake Tekapo Tourist Trap & Rental Trap.

Twenty years ago, while doing my Look See Decide, LSD trip around NZ,  I parked my 850cc Suzuki rental car in a Lake Tekapo carpark & freedom camped there. I never thought I'd live in Lake Tekapo village. Nowadays there're all sorts of prohibition signs around Lake Tekapo banning freedom campers. Locals wanted tourist dollars but not their crap. TV news recently featured German freedom campers squatting & crapping in a Christchurch red zone house. Even turdly CERA officials tut-tutted.

As Lake Tekapo has approx 1.8 million tourists passing through every year, it's a tourist trap, gateway to arid Mackenzie Country plateau & Alpine lake magnificence in the Mackenzie basin.

Leah got a teaching job at Lake Tekapo School. The headmistress told her that after the lethal, Christchurch 22.02.11 quake, school roll doubled overnight from 20 to 40. So we were tourists (or latter-day, quake displaced persons escaping post quake Christchurch, crap living conditions) in the tourist trap, as well as locals living & working in the rental trap. Population is about 320, so small we even got a free Post Office box, as there's no residential postal service in Lake Tekapo village. When I wander Lake Tekapo I see many closed ghost houses / holiday homes, post boxless, which stops junk mail.

Most houses in Lake Tekapo are private holiday homes, closed for most of the year. Some houses are commercial holidays homes, like the one we're renting at Aorangi Cres, $200 / night. (Or $400 / week). Work out how much dosh that brings in annually for one commercial holiday home. And its one of the cheaper ones, an old, 3 b.r, Public Works house, built about 60 years ago for workers constructing hydro-electric dams & canals in the Mackenzie - Waitaki basins. Fortunately Leah's boss pays our weekly rent for a while, until we find suitable accommodation. But where?

Some furnished holiday homes are rented for $400 - $500 / night. That's ridiculously unaffordable for people wanting to live & work at Take Tekapo. In contrast I recently saw a Fairlie Accessible ad where a 3 b.r. unfurnished house rents for $175 / week on Fairlie outskirts. That's affordable. But Fairlie is 43 kms from Lake Tekapo, having to commute to work up Burkes Pass.

$400 / week rent for a small, 3 b.r. house with garage is exorbitant, similar in price to Christchurch post quake rentals, where greedy landlords are coining it, due to low supply & high demand for rentals after quake damages. Luke's girlfriend's South New Brighton 3 b.r rental was damaged in the quakes & finished off in a recent storm when the roof blew off. She was sharing the rental with 2 other girlfriends. Now she's back to living with her parents while battling to find another rental.

Some landlord greed: When we asked our Christchurch landlady if our empty Burnside rental could be used to accommodate Luke & friends after their rental roof blew off, she only permitted Luke & girlfriend to stay, not other friends in dire need of accommodation. We didn't bother, as our landlady's reasoning was she preferred untroublesome middle aged tenants like ourselves, rather than youngsters who'd wreck her rental with parties. She tarred all youngsters with the same brush.

Luke's girlfriend confirmed Christchurch landlord greed in her quest for another rental. Some landlords were so greedy they either didn't want pets, or wanted her to pay weekly rent for her collie dog, or a $1000 bond for her dog.

Luke & Jake were recently booted out of their Ashgrove Tce rental house, as the landlord wanted to fix the house after EQC payout & thereafter he would live in the house. Jake moved to stay with a friend at Sumner, far from his Garland St work. Luke found a $400 / week rental in Berwick St to share rent with his girlfriend & 2 other friends. It was expensive, but par for the course in overpriced NZ.

PM Key's recent opining on rentals, when expounding on unemployed youngsters each being given $3000 by WINZ to go off the dole & move to Christchurch to help with the rebuild for 3 months (despite rental pressures on youngsters already renting in Christchurch, like my sons) was that youngsters just off the dole, or workers like my sons, could stay with family or friends. What a load of a fascist crap Key! 

Other Lake Tekapo tourist trap establishments are local cafes & restaurants, some flats on top of restaurants. Of course there's tourist accommodation at Peppers Bluewater Resort (800 plus rooms) The Godley Hotel & several B&Bs, backpackers, homestays, motels & resorts dotted around town. There's also the local YHA & Lake Tekapo camp site, so like Mackenzie rabbits, Lake Tekapo is riddled with tourists.

Recently a concrete path was completed beside Lake Tekapo for campers to stroll to Lake Tekapo village. A camper van effluent & fresh water site was also revamped for camper vans to debouch crap beside SH8, overlooking Lake Tekapo, with NO FREEDOM CAMPING signs on pines. Lake Tekapo is bordered by camper van effluent, as there's another effluent site along the highway, at the other end of town. 

As our small Lake Tekapo rental (house 97.5 square metres, single garage 18 square metres) is furnished, we're still renting our 3 b.r. house at Burnside, Christchurch, for our furniture storage. (House 103 square metres, double garage 48 square metres). Over the last months I've driven several return trips to Christchurch, fetching & carrying possessions, which are now muddled with our Lake Tekapo rental mod cons.

When we asked our Lake Tekapo landlord if he could move his furniture out, so we could relocate our furniture from Christchurch, he refused, as he'd have to store. Thus we'd have to store our furniture in Christchurch, unless we found unfurnished accommodation in Lake Tekapo. Our Lake Tekapo rental is part renovated, but the kitchen's awful, with rickety table & cupboard shelves covered in plastic, hiding decades of grime. There are 9 beds in the small, 3 b.r. house, incl 2 double beds & 2 double bunks, enough for 11 bodies a pop. The house is in fact an overpriced hostel, rather than a rental house for a family. So we had no space for our furniture. Our rental is across the road from backpacker establishments, so our landlord wants it several ways - big spending backpackers, or workers crammed into 11 beds, hostel style, or long term tenants like us, without possessions. We were seen by locals as glorified backpackers to be fleeced.  

Meanwhile there are several private, closed, holiday homes, close to our rental. Across Tekapo River, on a recent walk along Murray Pl, I counted over 20 private, closed holiday homes - more closed homes than inhabited homes. And that's just one short street in Lake Tekapo. Ditto parallel Scott St.

The sooner Lake Tekapo sorts out decent, affordable accommodation for people like ourselves who want to live, work & settle in Lake Tekapo the better. Otherwise Lake Tekapo will always be a beautiful tourist & rental trap, riddled with 1000s of daily tourists, just passing through.

The ironic convergence of Lake Tekapo tourist trap & rental trap is seen in the following Peppers Resort ad found on a community notice board, March 2014:

ACCOMMODATION NEEDED - DESPERATELY

We have a number of hard working staff desperately requiring medium to long term accommodation options in Lake Tekapo, or surrounding townships.

If you are looking for long term, secure and trustworthy tenants - look no further. Single occupant, shared options - whatever you may have will greatly assist. 

Please contact General manager ... @ Peppers Bluewater Resort ...

The biggest tourist accommodation resort at Lake Tekapo didn't even have decent accommodation for its own staff. What a farce, employers expecting excellent staff, but not providing employment or employer excellence.

We looked at a 3 b.r. rental pig sty about 1 km from Leah's school - overgrown "garden," rickety carport, cracked concrete decking, dirty, smelly kitchen, old carpets, dirty bedding, rickety furniture, asbestos backed fireplace. Upstairs bedrooms were a dirty firetrap, the house an old, A frame prefab. The greedy landlord wanted $350 - $400 / week, a tourist trap / rental trap, touting good money for a rickety slum house. He wanted long term tenants while he built another house in the front garden. Tenants in that crap rental paid for the rebuild.

Another furnished, 3 b.r  house, further from Leah's school: an immaculate rats' nest with tidy garden, rent $400 / week. A flat was on top. Snags: Gas cooker, a fire hazard; no fireplace; shared double garage, electricity, washing machine, clothes line & water heating. I foresaw endless disputes with other tenants, as we would pay 60% of the electrical bill while they only paid 40% no matter how little electricity we used & how much they used. Lake Tekapo is expensive with a low standard of living for those wanting to work at Lake Tekapo.

A filthy, 3 b.r. house we saw in Aorangi Cres is another pig sty. The landlady stores stuff in the garage, stopping tenants' use of the garage. The small house was converted to a 2 b.r house, the original lounge became a bedroom. Walls of 2 of the original bedrooms were demolished to make an open-plan lounge, cum dining room & kitchen. A fireplace with corrugated iron backing dominates the lounge & the kitchen has a gas stove. Stove & fireplace together causes miasma. I inspected the house barefoot & felt gunk underfoot. The house has inadequate cupboard space. $285 / week rental is a ripoff, our health would decline in that sty.     

Near the school, Leah's boss rents a wooden, 2 b.r house, sans garage, $350 / week. One teacher lives on a nearby farm. Another commutes daily from Twizel.

Before Easter weekend I wandered 18 Lake Tekapo streets & "posted" RENTAL HOUSE WANTED notices at 72 closed houses. Not one of those houses had a letter box, so I leave it to the reader's imagination how I "posted". There were many more closed houses, but I thought that was enough to test the ghost rental market. We got only 2 vague responses. Our search so far has revealed only high priced, low quality rentals. Our house search continues...

As there was no decent accommodation for us at Lake Tekapo, by the end of June we settled for a 2 bedroom rental in Fairlie, a village in a lower Alpine valley, 43 kms from Lake Tekapo. Rent was $200 per week for an old flax mill cottage in Talbot St in the middle of Fairlie golf course. Fairlie people were friendlier than Lake Tekapo inmates. Snag: Leah had a long commute to & from Lake Tekapo teaching each day.

Within a couple of weeks Leah organized a lift with a local bus driver who did the Lake Tekapo - Fairlie school bus run. The bus fare is cheaper than my driving Leah from Fairlie to Lake Tekapo each day. It also saves me dangerous ice driving on Burkes Pass during winter.

Content & pics Copyright mark JS Esslemont.

See Five star hotel planned for Lake Tekapo (The Press / Stuff Co).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cowans Hill Walkway, Lake Tekapo

Two summit, Cowans Hill Walkway is a circular walk 6-8km return, depending on one's start & end points & detours. At the time of writing, confusing DOC signs were at the bottom & some way up Cowans Hill alongside SH8. In places DOC marker poles were obscured by pines.

Much of Lake Tekapo village is built on the lower slopes of Cowans Hill overlooking Lake Tekapo & Southern Alps. Cowans Hill is terminal moraine of the "ancient" Godley Glacier. The terminal moraine continues across Tekapo River to an unamed hill on which The Cairns golf course is built.

One can start / end Cowans Hill walk at Lake Tekapo dam control gates by SH8, opposite Pioneer Rd turnoff to Church of the Good Shepherd. A DOC sign by a concrete path shows the way past housing above Tekapo River. That route will give a quick return walk through pine forest to Cowans Hill 793m summit, about 1 hour's duration. 

Alternatively for a longer circular walk through Lake Tekapo village, Cowans Hill tussock grassland & pine forest, one can wander along SH8 past housing & stockyards to the lakeside track beyond another Pioneer Rd turnoff to Pines Beach tracks in Lake Tekapo Regional Park.

Given the confusing signage for Cowans Hill Walkway it seems that the Regional Council, DOC & NZ Transport Authority were at loggerheads as to which organization was responsible for Cowans Hill tracks.

The most logical way around the base of Cowans Hill was along SH8, but NZ Transport Authority didn't provide pavements or footpaths beside SH8 for walkers / MTBs to use. The dam road / SH8 across Lake Tekapo outlet & Tekapo River was a dangerous bottleneck for vehicles, pedestrians & MTBs, as it was narrow & only had one footpath.

SH8 on the road to Fairlie, beyond Pioneer Rd turnoff, one joins a lakeside walking track marked by green & yellow DOC poles going to Lake Tekapo Regional Park. Across SH8 are stockyards by a Lake Tekapo lookout & tourist carpark, with Lochinver Run development behind, going up Cowans Hill to the cemetery road & beyond to pine forest tracks going up to Cowans Hill 793m summit.

Opting not to wander up SH8, if one follows the lakeside track, walkers are forced by means of locked gates & fences to enter the Regional Park forest where one crosses stiles by Lillybank Rd & detours through pine forest around a farm house beside SH8. Above the farmhouse one crosses SH8 by another stile to reach a closed-to-vehicles track going up Cowans Hill beside SH8. The track leads to a closed carpark lookout & beyond to a heap of sand blocking traffic beside SH8,.by Oregon pines & birches.

Near the top of Cowans Hill, beside SH8 one passes through a farm gate by a DOC sign marked LAKE TEKAPO WALKWAY. Cowans Hill is mentioned as an afterthought. After crossing a metal stile one enters tussock grassland overlooking a private observatory, Lake Tekapo & Alps.

In tussock grassland, above Lochinver Run, the 360 degree lake & Alpine views are worth the hassles of confusing DOC & Regional Park signs. Following the DOC marked, shared use track for walkers & MTBs, Cowans Hill hilltops, 783m & 793m are a lesson in how forestry & logging can destroy pristine Alpine grasslands & wetlands. From the 783m grassland summit a Lions bench gives 360 degree views over Mackenzie Country. The grasslands are windy, so all-weather, hoody gear is necessary.

Pinus radiata pines are planted in the grassland & wetlands on top of Cowans Hill. The 783m summit has new pine plantings, the 793m summit has mature, logged pine forest. The pines may stop soil erosion, but will dry out the tarns on top. Some of the tarns are already dried out. A black swan pair & ducks swam a half filled tarn.

Having survived 3 years of Christchurch quakes, 2010-2013, it would be interesting to see the effects of big quakes on Lake Tekapo village, between topside tarns & wetland drainage on Cowans Hill & Lake Tekapo below. Given the close proximity to Alpine ranges &amp faults, like Coal River Fault below Richmond Range, I expected disastrous shaking & liquefaction. Hopefully expensive developments like Lochinver Run, Mt John Village & The Cairns have quake resilient housing?

Following the shared MTB / walker track going up to the pine forest on the 793m summit, one crosses a metal stile into the pine forest. A PINDONE sign on a pine warns about rabbit poisoning - useless as Lake Tekapo village & forests are riddled with rabbits & rabbit warrens. So much for farmers boasting about secretly introducing calcivirus into Mackenzie Country some years back. All that did was toughen up rabbits' immune systems, giving rabbits immunity to rabbit poisons.

Beside a pine forest fence, a farm track in the grassland goes down to a locked gate above Lochinver Run development.

From radio & TV transmitters at the 793m summit, one has views of Lake Tekapo village sewage farm & refuse dump. Following Tekapo River down stream view, after an S bend, one sees Tekapo A power station.

E, beside Lake Tekapo, one sees Alpine peaks rising from S to N: Mt Edward, Mt Maude, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Dobson, Two Thumbs Range, Mt Ardmore, Richmond Range, Round Hill & ski field, Mt Gerald.

N of Lake Tekapo, one sees The Thumbs, Mt Chevalier, Mt Erebus, Mt Sibbald & Mistake Peak.

W side of Lake Tekapo one sees Mt John, Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson & Gammack Range obscuring the view of Mt Cook & associated peaks.

Further W, Cowans Hill gives grand views of Mt Stafford, Barrier Range, W of Twizel & Ben Ohau Range - Backbone Peak, Mackenzies Peak, The Razorback, Dun Fiunary, Glentanner Peak & other peaks going to Mt Sefton.

Doing a S detour from the top of Cowans Hill pine forest, one can follow a forest track to the end of the pine forest & pass through a farm gate, where a stock track follows a cliff top path above Tekapo River. Vegetable sheep, Raoulia australis, on rocks indicate harsh Alpine winds sweeping up the clifftop. Many rabbit warrens showed rabbit pollution & solid mats of hawkweed, Hieracium, showed plant pollution. Obviously rabbits didn't chomp hawkweed. I saw some rabbit carcasses, successful poisonings, but also saw rabbits hopping about, immune to Pindone. Beyond the clifftop, a farm track went down to Tekapo River, a long trek, opposite Tekapo A power station.

The way down from the pine forest summit offers various forestry tracks, a couple with DOC marker poles. The shared use MTB / walker track goes through a logged out section of forest, about 200m x 1000m, full of pine branch windrows, thistles, wooly mulleins, rose brambles, sparse grass, new pine plantings, testament to wetland & tussock grassland destruction by foresters. The pines also obscured Lake Tekapo & Alpine views. All that pines offered was firewood, wind shelter & erosion salvage. Erosion was caused by pioneers' stock overgrazing.

The shared use track passes behind housing above Tekapo River back to the concrete path at SH8 by the the Lake Tekapo dam control gates, a DOC sign there too.

Cowans Hill Walkway takes about 2 hours walking time return, or more, depending on detours one does.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mt John Walkway, Lake Tekapo

Thurs 13.02.14. On the S side of of Mt John, 1031m, overlooking Lake Tekapo, I wandered up Mt John's zigzag path through larch forest, sprinkled with pines. The climb was about 311m on the DOC maintained path. The climb began beside spa pools, renowned for the world's biggest inflatable hydroslide. Mt John Walkway was popular & many people wandered up & down.

On my way up, through larch gaps, I had glimpses of Mackenzie Country, in the N Mackenzie Basin & S Waitaki Basin, gouged out by glaciers & surrounded by Southern Alpine ranges. Beyond the treeline, the path emerged W of the S Summit, a rocky bluff. The basins were dry, desert like, with windblown grass & treeless, except for occasional farm shelter trees. W, I had Alpine views toward Mt Sefton, 3151m & Ben Ohau Range above Twizel. From S to N, some Ben Ohau / Ruataniwha peaks: Backbone Peak, 2263m, Mackenzies Peak, 2200m, Dun Fiunary, 2500m, Glentanner Peak, 2551m...

On top of Mt John, wooden steps led to a circular summit path, carpark, 5 observatory domes & Astro Cafe with spectacular views. Various boards on the summit gave info. The observatories were run by Canterbury University. Our Christchurch neighbour was studying astronomy at Canterbury Uni & hoped soon to do some star gazing on Mt John summit. Until 1983 the observatory nearest the S summit was a USA spy observatory, checking passing satellites during Cold War times.

Due to Lake Tekapo's clear skies, although Mt John was touted as a star gazers' paradise, it wasn't a conservation hotspot, due to exotic larches, thistles, rose brambles & rabbit pollution. Rabbit dung & rabbit holes riddled Mt John. I spotted a small, green, vegetable sheep, Raoulia australis, covering a stone near one of the observatories. With 1000s of tourists invading Mt John summit annually, I doubted local flora had much chance of flourishing. For the sick, lame & lazy, a tarred road went up Mt John on the NW slope, about 8 km distance from Lake Tekapo - Lake Pukaki SH8.

E, from Mt John's Astro Cafe, one could see Lake Tekapo town on Lake Tekapo S shore, with Mt Edward, 1916m, Mt Ardmore 1989m & Mt Dobson, 2095m beyond. In the distance, gravel roads to Mt Dobson & Round Hill ski fields could be seen on lower mountain slopes. NW of Mt John, Lake Alexandrina & Lake McGregor shimmer, with Lake Tekapo in the E. Mt Erebus, Mt Sibbald, 2811m, Mt Chevalier, 2404m, The Thumbs, 2546m & Two Thumb Range were in the N & NE. Beyond one of the observatory domes, in the W a glimpse of Aoraki Mt Cook summit, 3754m. Mt Stevenson & Gammack Range obscure Aoraki Mt Cook lower slopes.  

The walk through the larch forest to Mt John summit takes about 1 hour. An optional return via N slopes & Lake Tekapo shore takes about 2 hours, but it is exposed grassland. Beware of gnats, smelly horse dung & the elements, as weather changes quickly from benign to harsh.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.