Refused to pay for driveway 'disaster'

Valda Shaw says her husband, Alan, refused to pay the $7000 bill after door to door driveway...
Valda Shaw says her husband, Alan, refused to pay the $7000 bill after door to door driveway repair contractors did substandard work at their Tapanui property. The completed work (left) is little more than a temporary top coat to the driveway, the Shaws say. Photo by Hamish MacLean.
A driveway repair contract firm which has left a trail of complaints in Otago towns is under investigation by immigration authorities.

Several concerns have been raised about the practices of the team of three Canadians, who solicit for work door to door.

The complaints include poor work quality, verbal only contracts, operating under the name of an unregistered company and unethical sales techniques.

Senior Constable John Mawhinney, of Tapanui, said he knew of three places where the unregistered company had worked, but there were possibly more in the area.

On each job the clients were told it was a once only offer and the contractors would not be returning to town.

''They put the pressure on to accept what is perceived to be a good deal,'' he said.

Snr Const Mawhinney said he arrived at Alan Shaw's property in Tapanui while George Williamson Stewart (52) and his sons, George Thomas Stewart (29) and Patrick Swales Stewart (20), were working on Monday.

The contractors had already fielded complaints from Mr Shaw about the quality of the work.

''He was already thinking this was no good,'' Snr Const Mawhinney said.

''Three big guys standing around, possibly intimidating.''

Mr Shaw, a superannuitant, said the work on his driveway was a ''disaster'' which would cost him and his wife, Valda, money to fix.

''I said, 'You're bloody ripping us off','' Mr Shaw said.

''What was hoped to be a bloody good job worked out in the end to be a disaster. And in the end it's going to cost us ... to take it [the seal] off or doing something with it.''

With the police present, the contractor offered to leave without receiving payment of $7000, he said.

Mr Shaw then cancelled a cheque he had made out, not to the company, P+R General Contracting, but to a personal account upon request. P+R General Contracting was not on the Companies Register, a Consumer Affairs spokesman said.

Immigration New Zealand said Mr Stewart held a valid ''visitor visa'' and the department would be ''looking into the matter and considering its options''.

The contractors were negotiating only verbal contracts. Under the Fair Trading Act, consumer protection laws state door to door sales agreements must be in writing. Police said Mr Stewart gave them an Auckland address.

The outfit had also come to the attention of police in Mosgiel and Lawrence in January, Snr Const Mawhinney said.

A driveway contractor of the same name was subject to similar complaints, multiple charges and media reports in four Canadian provinces dating back to 2000.

A police officer stopped Mr Stewart in Balclutha as he was heading north on State Highway 1 on Monday afternoon.

Snr Const Mawhinney said he followed the younger Stewart men until they left West Otago on Monday.

He said the men's vehicles _ a white 2006 Toyota Hilux (DGM 847) with a trailer (S496P) with a vibrating roller on it and a white Hino two axle tipper truck (GDR 682) _ were only marked as business vehicles by magnetic signs.

''These Fancy Dans think they can come down and pull the wool over country people's eyes, but everyone here is pretty much on the mark,'' he said.

Two of the three Tapanui clients had cancelled their payments for the work. The bills for the three Tapanui jobs had totalled $15,000.

-hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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