Photo: Manoeuvring second part of house into position using hydraulic jacks on trailer unit.
What has a severe tropical cyclone, banana skins, protected native flora and fauna and a very difficult section to access all have in common? Richard Silcock explains.
In this case it was a task that confronted house relocation specialists, Progressive House Movers and the relocation of a house on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula.
The move required a 1930’s bungalow to be cut in half and moved from Hahei to Hot Water Beach, a distance of just under six kilometres.
For an experienced heavy haulage team like Progressive House Movers, who have been in business since 2005, it all sounded pretty simple – but that was before the site at Hot Water Beach had been assessed, the weather had turned into the raging Cyclone Gabrielle and the owner of the Hahei site wanted the house gone ASAP so that he could begin building a new house.
“A reconnaissance of the Hot Water Beach site showed it was going to be difficult for a fully laden truck and trailer unit to gain access,” says co-owner and founder of Progressive House Movers, Andrew (Andy) Silcock.
“The new owner wanted the house to be located up a very steep, unformed, four metre wide access through some covenanted dense native bush, with the house located off to the side and on a sloping section. There was absolutely no room to manoeuvre our truck and hydraulic trailer unit within the site and reversing it up the steep earth access was going to be tricky.”
Not to be outdone, and despite the tight timeframe and looming storm, Andy and Ian Stanton (the other company part-owner) and their team devised a plan to successfully deliver the house to the site and position it on the prebuilt foundations.
“With a bit of lateral thinking we decided that the best way to move the house off the trailer, once we had it aligned to the house foundations, was to slide it sideways on to rails and then to carefully winch it into position on the foundations,” Andy recalls.
“The use of a crane to lift the two sections of house off the trailer and onto the site was considered, but with no local cranes available with a long enough boom to reach the site from the road, this was discounted, as was lifting it by helicopter as the weight of the house precluded this.
“We also had to be careful to minimise any disturbance to the local flora and fauna as the surrounding area is home to kiwi, kereru and other native birds along with fresh water crayfish in a nearby stream – all of which formed a part of the building consent criteria.
“The 100-square-metre house featured a lot of native timber and the new owner and his partner, who had both emigrated from the USA for the lifestyle here and their love of surfing, were keen to retain the character of the house by ‘repurposing’ it and virtually causing no negative impact to the surrounding native bush.”
Due to the site access, the narrow Coromandel roads and overhanging protected pohutukawa trees around the peninsula, the house was cut in two lengthways and a part of the roof removed to enable the house to be transported.
“With the necessary paper work and authority consents in place, this preparatory work was accomplished in a matter of days and the first section of the house was loaded onto our Modern Transport three-axle hydraulic house trailer. We coupled this to our Kenworth W924 tractor unit for the short haul to Hot Water Beach.
“We managed to get the first section of the house to Hot Water Beach, before the cyclone hit, so it was then a case of waiting out the storm before we could tackle the difficult access to the site.
“Such was the ferocity of the cyclone we had to securely fasten the house on to the trailer with additional strapping and tarpaulins and park-up in a sheltered car park before taking shelter ourselves at a nearby motel.
“The cyclone raged for several days, with many of the local roads inundated with flood water, fallen trees and a number of large slips. State Highway 25a was completely closed, as was the road between Hahei and Hot Water Beach, so we had no option but to return to base and get on with other projects until the local road was reopened and the weather had calmed down several days later.
“The heavy rain had turned access to the site into a muddy quagmire, so reversing our truck and trailer up the steep incline required some assistance from a tractor to gain additional traction.
“Once we had the trailer on level ground and adjacent to the house foundations, it was a matter of winching the house section off the trailer and then sliding it sideways on six metre-long, pre-fabricated steel rails and onto the bored concrete and timber house foundations which we had previously installed to a depth of 900mm as specified in the civil engineer’s report.
“In keeping with the green environmental requirement, and again using some lateral thinking, instead of grease we used banana skins as the sliding lubricant on the rails which, although a bit messy, certainly did the job – though the local store had to temporarily take banana smoothies off their menu as we had bought up the lot!”
Andy says most of the time it was raining, making it unpleasant and the ground soon turned to mud, so with the weekend coming they elected to take a break with most of the team returning home.
Unfortunately with a further cyclonic weather event over the weekend, all the state highways and roads to the Coromandel including SH25 and SH25A* were totally closed, virtually isolating the Coromandel from the rest of the country and it wasn’t until 10 days later that they were able to get back to the job and uplift the second section of the house.
“The next stage went without any holdups and we were able to jack the second section of the house down from trailer height using our hydraulic house jacks and then slide it across to join up with the first section of the house.
“With the house secured and re-joined we were then able to reinstate the roof section to make it water tight, tidy up and remove all our equipment from the site.”
Andy adds that the client was very grateful for a difficult task well executed and completed with some lateral thinking in very challenging conditions.