Leader Homes goes Underwater


Highly poisonous sea snake no deterrent for this team!

Registered Master Builders Federation company Leader Homes has been working on new residential homes, renovations and extensions in eastern and central Auckland for more than 15 years.


So, when director Kevin Neil heard about a project at Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, he knew this job was going to be different, and welcomed the opportunity to have a break from his regular bread and butter residential work.


A large section of Kelly Tarlton’s is actually situated under Tamaki Drive in Auckland, a main traffic artery as well as a popular scenic route.


So, when staff in the retail area noticed pieces of ceiling structure had been coming away due to road traffic vibrations, they were understandably concerned.


Leader Homes was contracted to install a number of steel PFC beams to the existing structure to provide more support. Each beam would need end plates with two m16 holes drilled into the existing concrete beams as well as being held in place with epoxy.


Although the job wasn’t going to be easy, it would have been relatively straightforward, apart from one particular obstacle. That is, one of the beams had to be positioned over a tank containing a not so friendly visitor to our shores — a highly poisonous sea snake.


The snake had washed up on the West Coast of the North Island last year and had taken up residence at the Underwater World where it was being taken care of by Kelly Tarlton’s staff.


This snake is one scary customer, with venom 15 times stronger than a cobra’s and no known antidote available.


“Turns out that you don’t need it because once you get bitten you only have four seconds to live anyway!” Kevin says.


Apart from the obvious scare factor, the snake’s presence in the elevated tank also provided some logistical challenges, with the team having to completely cover the tank to protect it from concrete dust, then work their way around it to carefully manoeuvre the beam into place.


“We had a chippie at each end guiding the PFC and another guy over the tank coordinating the whole process. The lighting was quite dim, so we had to take it pretty slowly,” Kevin says.


There was one touch-and-go moment during the installation — once the pre-measured beam was nearly in place they discovered it was 30mm short, so Kevin needed to think fast and used a little dry-pac to set it in place.


“As I put my thumb between the end plate and the concrete, the guy on the other end levered the beam over, right onto my thumb!


Nearly joined the snake!

“Being a builder, I’m used to the odd piece of skin missing, as most chippies would attest to, but this one was a real eye waterer. I nearly joined the snake in the tank trying to get down so fast!” Kevin recalls.


Smashed thumbs aside, the rest of the project went smoothly for the team from Leader Homes, and the staff in the retail outlet can now work with confidence, knowing their ceilings won’t be coming down on top of them any time soon.


Kevin admits that the whole job was “a bit of a mission”, but a great change of scenery from his regular jobs.

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