Ray White, Kerikeri – their Facebook page has a eulogy to Ian Knox written by his daughter Laura.
‘In the 1970s my father Ian Knox joined Mr GB (Don) Hewson’s ‘Hewson Real Estate’ in Kerikeri.
A leading Northland real estate practitioner he was recognised in his industry as well as being awarded the Queens Service Medal for his voluntary involvement with the Kerikeri community.
Now, almost 50 years later, I am proud to say we’re still a family owned and led company. We’re devoted to our clients, and in achieving them the very best price for their property and showing them the same dedication, commitment and care we’d show our own family.’
It continues, ‘It’s this behavior and our constant goal to be proud of every transaction we make, that we believe has led to our continued success.’
Situated just outside Kerikeri at 125a Ness Road in Waipapa, Killara was a stunning lifestyle property seen above.
Killara had been of interest to us since 2004, we saw it on the internet in the UK. We had exchanged several emails with Ian Knox about it.
We met Ian in his office, he was very professional. He stressed how he was the ‘honest agent,’ working with the the Real Estate Authority to rewrite the rules and improve the standards of behaviour of estate agents in NZ.
He told us of his work with the Kerikeri Village. We even walked down the street to view it with him. He was warmly greeted by several people on the walk. His desk had a bronze mounted plaque stating that he was a Justice of the Peace. The whole office seemed to revolve around him. He strived to give the image of the most honest estate agent in New Zealand. We had no reason to doubt anything he said to us.
He knew Killara very well, proudly telling us that he had sold the property twice previously. He drove us out to view and meet the Moody’s, Rogan and Heather. It was stunning, it appeared to be brand new, perfect in every way.
Alarm bells should have been ringing, the house was surrounded by 11.8Ha of carefully mown grass, right upto the walls of the building. Everything was surrounded by tall windbreaks of Eucalyptus underplanted with massive Leylandii as we had seen around the orchards that stood all around Killara.
There were no gardens as such which was very odd considering how the property was presented. We had been shown the ‘serious’ water filtration system in one of the outside cupboards at the rear of the property. The ‘Billy’ water system in the kitchen supplied instant boiling and ice cold water, we considered it was a great gadget to have in the semi tropical north of NZ.
Heather Moody sat on the couch throughout our visit, she explained that she had been ill since a car crash and now struggled to walk. Jokingly telling us she exercised each day walking down the drive to a mark in the hedge, turning and returning to her sitting place for the rest of the day.
A second visit followed, we inspected the house in more detail with a critical eye but there was nothing that disturbed us. We made an asking price offer which was immediately accepted. At no time was the subject of contamination mentioned.
Ray White Estate Agent, Ian Knox, sold Killara to us
without any disclosure of the contamination.
We asked Ian to recommend a lawyer to act for us. He sent us just around the corner to local solicitor, David Welsh. We were not warned about possible contamination by him either. This was remarkable, since we discovered later that in 2004 to 2005 there had been a considerable amount of publicity about contamination on ex-horticultural properties all over NZ.
This had followed the Sally Gaw paper on Contamination which had found that 69% of the properties she examined had serious contamination issues. Killara’s LIM report was clear, no mention of the HAIL warning about ORCHARDS and no mention of possible contamination.
We moved in, delighted and worked hard upgrading and completing the house and installing gardens. Then, quite quickly, we started to get ill. Daughter Eleanor first, she had her two horses and virtually lived outside, often getting covered with dirt. Glandular fever was the initial diagnosis but it did not respond to antibiotics. It knocked out her immune system and, to this day, she is susceptible to every bug going around.
Then I started to get chest pains, the GP sent me to a Cardiologist and years of cardiac testing followed. The symptoms were clear to see but what was causing it wasn’t discovered until 2016. I really had GERD, serious heartburn and a hiatus hernia which have symptoms similar to cardiac issues.
Son Alex, started to sleep endlessly, 16 or 24 hours continuously at times, he was constantly being sent home from school due to falling asleep in class. In 2011 he was diagnosed with ADHD and probably Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on top of the undefined sleep disorder.
We never considered the water being contaminated, the Government had told us there was no pollution in 100% Pure New Zealand. The only thing that worried us was the pollen, the cars were covered in yellow pollen from the windbreaks regularly. We decided to sell Killara and move into Kerikeri, which we loved, due to the pollen. Naturally, we instructed Ian to sell Killara for us but the timing was difficult, the start of the World Financial Crisis basically killed the upper end of the NZ property market.
We soldiered on, with our health getting worse every day. In 2010 we finally realised that the water at Killara was the source of our problems. We immediately told Ian about our discovery.
Ian’s reaction shocked us, he just carried on, not showing any surprise or real concern. He told us that he would increase the publicity and we should drop the price a little to attract more buyers! We were concerned but walked down to the Council Offices to talk to them about possible contamination of the water.
We saw our MP who laughed at us and told us that it was our problem. He quoted the Resource Management Act 1991, (RMA). It includes sections that changed the liability for the remediation of polluted land. A polluter, occupiers or current owners (even if innocent parties) can all potentially be liable for contamination. In effect, he said the RMA leaves contamination as the problem of the current owner of the land since it is usually impossible to find the original polluter with any certainty.
It took several weeks before we got independant test results that showed the water was contaminated with arsenic, lead and possibly other contaminants. We sent the test results to Ian expecting him to remove the property off his listings.
Ian Knox did the reverse, increasing publicity and
bringing more people to view it.
We decided unilaterally to take the property off the market. We just couldn’t sell the property without disclosing the contamination, to us it was disgusting, unethical and probably illegal. We had decided to remediate the site and then continue to enjoy living at Killara without any risk from contamination.
We told Ian to stop bringing people to view, he told us that a family had driven up from Auckland the previous day to view on the following morning and he couldn’t really cancel their visit. We reluctantly agreed to allow them into the house. They were a family of four, all about the same ages we had been 5 years earlier when we first viewed the property with Ian.
Whilst they walked around the garden Ian spoke to us. He told us that Rogan Moody, before he listed the property, had assured him that the filtration system removed all the toxins out of the water. We were furious, Ian had admitted that he had known about the contamination before he sold us the property without disclosing that it was contaminated. We told him to leave immediately and we told the viewing family the position. They were shocked and upset.
The reality finally dawned on us! Ian Knox had sold the property to the Moody’s, almost certainly knowing that the land was contaminated. When Rogan discovered the position, he tried to counter the toxins by filtration but this would always fail. Heather got ill, due to the arsenic contamination so they then decided to sell and that is where we came onto Ian’s horizon.
My health conditions matched Heather’s visible symptoms almost exactly. I too, struggled to walk up and down the drive to her marker in the hedge and sat down for the rest of the time.
Ian Knox didn’t disclose the contamination to us or to any potential buyer he brought to view the property. After we had sent him the forensic test results showing the water was seriously contaminated he continued to market the property and bring buyers to view it.
Make no mistake here, the Regional Councils had published guides on Selling, Buying and Conveyancing Contaminated property following the Auckland experience in 2004 regarding 5,000 contaminated homes. Ian Knox and the lawyer he recommended we use, David Welch of 5 Hobson Street, Kerikeri both must have been aware of the contents and requirements to disclose detailed in them.
David Welch must have been aware of the issue with horticultural land and orchards in particular following the 2003 Sally Gaw report. Not to mention the massive publicity the LIM report issue on the 5,000 Auckland homes generated in NZ. He had a duty to protect us and inform us of any possible issues with our proposed purchase but he ASKED and said ZILCH!
IAN KNOX did not care that the property was seriously contaminated with Arsenic and other deadly toxins. He just repeatedly sold it and took the handsome commission on each sale without any disclosure of the position.
I’m sorry to see that Laura Knox-Whyte who now runs
RAY WHITE Estate Agents in Kerikeri, states on their website:-
‘Together our team offers knowledge, honesty,
enthusiasm and genuinely care about our clients and
achieving the very best outcome for them.’
In our case, honesty was never a consideration, they only cared about getting our CASH and had NO REGARD FOR THE DANGER TO OUR LIVES.
They knowingly sold us a contaminated property without any disclosure.
I can only assume that she follows in her father’s footsteps and still sells contaminated properties without any disclosure.
There is strong evidence that Ian Knox was seriously involved
in the destruction of Killara.
The fire destroyed the contamination evidence against him in an
attempt to save his fortune and reputation. Both remain intact
but the consequences quickly cost him his life.
We think we deserve some compensation from Ray White, Kerikeri as a contribution
towards the massive loss ($3M+) we made by them selling us the property without disclosing the contamination, not to mention the actions of Ian Knox that almost certainly led to its destruction.