A Reefton woman is challenging ACC to explain why it’s taken a year and $75,000 to build a backyard ramp for her badly injured mother.
74-year-old Lynne Bolton slipped and fell in her living room last June, breaking her hip and fracturing her spine.
She spent months in hospital and was barely able to walk when she was sent home to her cottage behind the home of her daughter, hairdresser Kim Bolton.
ACC agreed she was entitled to a ramp so she could access her car and her daughter’s house.
And that’s where the bureaucratic nightmare began, according to Kim Bolton.
The estimate to build the ramp came in at $50,000.
“I couldn’t believe the price – it seemed exorbitant. And they insisted on using their own approved builders, who were all busy and couldn’t do it. So Mum was cooped up inside for months.”
Her formerly sociable and active mother became sad and frustrated, Bolton says.
“She got pretty down to it; she was supposed to be getting some exercise for rehab but the only thing we could do was get her out on her tiny deck with her walker.”
Getting her mother into the car to go to the doctor or for an outing was painful and difficult, Bolton says.
“I kept asking why can’t we get a local builder to build the ramp, but ACC said there were none who could do it. I teach at polytech and I know there are competent builders here – they are teaching apprentices, for goodness’ sake. We were at our wits’ end.”
Eventually, ACC agreed to install a temporary aluminium ramp, then in January it sent a builder from Ashburton to measure up for a permanent one.
“ACC installed the temporary one before Christmas and it’s paying $1000 a week to hire it. We’ve had it for 25 weeks. It just seems crazy.”
But wait, there’s more
The craziness ramped up to new heights this month.
“We got a call from ACC to say the builder’s quote for the permanent ramp had gone up $10,000 to $60,000, and with the $25,000 cost of hiring the temporary one, the claim was now over budget. So it said it would buy the aluminium ramp for us and leave it at that.”
Kim Bolton saw red.
“I wasn’t having it. The aluminium ramp’s slippery and dangerous in a place like Reefton in winter, with frost and ice. They’d mucked around for so long and now they want to fob us off with this.”
She took to Facebook to let off steam, threatening to call Fair Go and appealing for help from the Reefton community.
“Next day I got a call from the ACC guy in Greymouth, who has been lovely, and he said he’d been up all night trying to find a loophole for us and he had found one.”
If the Boltons could find a certified builder on the West Coast who could build the ramp to spec and budget, ACC would fund it, they were told.
“All these offers of help came in after my Facebook bleat and it turns out there are five certified builders in the area who are qualified to do the job.”
This week, nearly a year after the accident that confined Lynne Bolton to her home, Greymouth builder Shane McGeady arrived with his tape measure to size the place up for a permanent ramp.
“We were so pleased to see him. Once his quote’s approved, ACC will pay half up front, and when the ramp’s certified and ticked off, it pays the rest,” Kim Bolton says.
“What I don’t understand is why they couldn’t have done this in the first place – called for tenders or whatever. There are plenty of qualified tradespeople on the Coast and ACC should be using them and saving us all money and stress.”
ACC says it did try to find a local builder for the ramp last year but was unsuccessful.
“The company that handles housing modifications for ACC has seven registered contractors on the West Coast but none were available due to other commitments.”
ACC’s acting chief operating officer, Gabrielle O’Connor, says other builders on the Coast were approached but many could not meet pre-qualification standards required for the specialised work involved.
“As a result, registered contractors from outside the region were sought for this work.”
Sorry, says ACC
But Kim Bolton has a point, O’Connor concedes.
“In this situation, we accept that the option of using a non-contracted preferred builder could have been introduced earlier in the process and apologise for this.
“We are pleased to hear that Mrs Bolton has found a licensed builder to complete the project and look forward to continuing to support her recovery.”
Lynne Bolton says it’s a relief to know she won’t have to spend a Reefton winter worried about slipping and falling again on an iced-up metal ramp.
“It’s not been an easy year. I’m just glad they’re sorting it out for me.”
All other current ACC projects on the West Coast are on track to be completed in the expected timeframes, the corporation says.
Made with the support of the Public Interest Journalism Fund