ORC moves to clean up toxic home

The Otago Regional Council could move to clean up the site of a Dunedin toxic home.

Council staff returned to the Selwyn St villa, in Northeast Valley, yesterday to take up to 17 new soil samples.

The move followed revelations this week three adults and three young girls had been renting the home from the regional council, unaware the property was contaminated by lead.

Council support services manager Gerard Collings said when contacted the samples could help decide what steps, if any, could be taken to address the contamination problem.

However, it was too soon to say what specific measures could be considered, he said.

More information would be available next week.

His comments came as several members of the public contacted the Otago Daily Times offering to help the tenants.

Paul Barton, of Dunedin, offered to contribute money towards the cost of the tenants moving to a new flat, because his great grandfather, John Begg, owned the factory believed to be the source of the contamination.

He said he was "not a wealthy man", but would be able to contribute "hundreds, not thousands" of dollars towards their costs.

"I'm not taking legal responsibility, but maybe a bit of moral responsibility.

I don't want that on my conscience."

Hanson Removals director Eleanor MacGregor also offered to move the tenants' possessions free of charge, while Carmel Nash, of Queenstown, offered the tenants her vacant flat in Blacks Rd, Northeast Valley.

"I could probably arrange a couple of weeks' free rent, if they are willing to sign a lease," she said.

The contaminated Selwyn St home was one of 11 residential properties owned by the Otago Regional Council, which had instructed property manager Harveys Dunedin to warn tenants about the contamination.

It was revealed this week the warning had not been passed on by Harveys staff to the tenants, which Harveys principal Bruce Robinson acknowledged was his company's mistake.

He spent 90 minutes with the tenants yesterday, and afterwards told the Otago Daily Times he would be prepared to assist them financially in finding a new flat and relocating.

"If they want some reasonable assistance to move, I will put my hand in my pocket for it.

We know we have made a mistake and . . . need to fix it.

Mr Robinson said the mother of the three girls living at the home was waiting for blood test-results for her youngest child, 1-year-old Azariah, before deciding if she wanted to move.

The results were expected next week.

The tenants could not be reached for comment yesterday.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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