Last week, Macaulay Marchant appeared in court, charged with obtaining just over $13,000 by deception without claim of right.
He pleaded not guilty. He didn't say much in court, but we felt his many customers deserved some answers.
So as he left Auckland District Court, we asked him a few questions. We wanted to know what had happened to the money he'd taken, what he had to say to the customers he'd left in the lurch – and why he'd begun taking on work in Auckland, when there were so many jobs down in Christchurch that he'd left incomplete.
Walking briskly back to his car with a friend at his side, Macaulay said very little. No apologies, no explanations, he just referred us to his lawyer. It's all very unsatisfactory for the dozens of people in Christchurch, who say he owes them thousands of dollars a piece.
Those former customers recently met to discuss how they could keep up the pressure so that roofers like Macaulay stop getting away with taking money and walking away from the job.
One victim, Lee Tua, who is owed $3800, said, "No-one will hit themselves with the stupid stick more than I did, but I'm not going to sit there and take it, either."
They agreed it would be a good idea to write personal stories of the frustration and hardship Macaulay had caused, and to send these to their MP, the police and the Law Society.
Fair Go said they would take their complaints and questions to the government, specifically the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
Unfortunately, that ended in frustration too. An MBIE representative said there was no one single person that knew enough about all the questions we wanted to ask in order to front up on camera, so a statement would have to do.
We asked MBIE why roofers who did repairs didn't have to be licensed building practitioners (LBPs). It advised that a customer should choose an LBP for any work that needs doing.
It's fair advice, but it doesn't answer the question. The LBP system was set up to encourage competent building practice, a by assessing tradespeople. It also gives consumers the necessary information to make informed decisions about the tradespeople they engage and sets up a system for making complaints.
So it makes sense for roofers who carry out repairs to be party to this regime, as even repairs can be costly and expensive.
The other question asked was whether New Zealand would consider introducing a scheme like the Home Improvement Guarantee in the UK.
It's a means of giving financial protection to customers, guaranteeing workmanship on home improvements for up to 10 years after work has been completed. MBIE answered by saying, "MBIE is currently consulting on a proposal to require a guarantee or insurance product for residential new builds and significant alterations that will allow homeowners to opt out of it."
In case you're wondering, that means they're having a look at the idea.
The group of Macaulay's disgruntled customers were happy to hear changes were being considered, and even happier to know that Macaulay was finally in court.
Faye Forsyth, who is owed $12,000 by Macaulay, summed up the group's feelings: "There has to be a change, because it's not just Mac doing it, there are others doing it as well."