Owners of 21 Tauranga houses evacuated nearly six weeks ago in the Bella Vista subdivision have received the shattering news their homes are unable to be re-occupied.

And with no guarantees that the council would continue to pay their accommodation past Friday, financially stretched residents erupted in frustration.

(l-r) Miela, 2 , Andre, Chloe, and Asher Stewart, Jenny and Damian Coffey, and Tony Mann. Bella Vista homeowners. Photo / Andrew Warner
(l-r) Miela, 2 , Andre, Chloe, and Asher Stewart, Jenny and Damian Coffey, and Tony Mann. Bella Vista homeowners. Photo / Andrew Warner

Anger bubbled under the surface of last night's meeting between the Tauranga City Council and owners after they were told most of their properties had been declared to be dangerous.

Poole said the development had significant failings and the council had to act cautiously, with the safety of families in mind.

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Building compliance expert Rose McLaughlan said none of the buildings were code compliant. This was despite some having been issued with Code Compliance Certificates by the council.

She said many of the defects may not be feasible or cost-effective to fix.

''This is due to the nature of the soil and problems associated with uncontrolled fill and sub-surface erosion.''

McLaughlan concluded that remediating the land and repairing some foundations and slabs may be virtually impossible.

Homeowners were presented with findings from the council's assessment of the 21 properties at The Lakes. It was an overview of expert geotechnical, structural, and building compliance reports.

Based on these findings, the council decided all 21 properties were dangerous and affected, or deemed to be affected because of their proximity to dangerous buildings.

Impacted homeowner Andre Stewart asked what support they would receive up to the June 6 meeting when the council decided what option it would choose to help residents.

Kirsty Downey, general manager of the council chief executive's group, said anyone who considered they had special circumstances should approach the council for assistance.

Another resident Jenny Coffey said that in the meantime they faced the prospect of paying mortgages and some people paying rent.

''We need to be compensated for the council putting the timeline out further and further.''

Downey said if there were circumstances that the council needed to be aware of, then residents should tell them.

This was greeted by angry outbursts, with one person saying, ''We are all paying mortgages and rates.''

Twenty-one properties were evacuated in the Bella Vista Homes development in The Lakes.
Twenty-one properties were evacuated in the Bella Vista Homes development in The Lakes.

Council chief executive Garry Poole was asked how the council was going to build trust with residents.

He said one of the first issues was to have a clear understanding of how the council reached this position. ''That will inform us how to rebuild trust.''

The assessment that led up to last night's meeting was launched in February following the liquidation of Bella Vista Homes Ltd on November 30, 2017. It initially focused on discovering what needed to be done to make the homes comply with the Building Code. However, experts found issues throughout the process.

In early March, 13 families were evacuated from their homes ahead of Cyclone Hola.

The council's chief executive Garry Poole said it was an extraordinary situation where a developer went into liquidation leaving homes and properties in various stages of completion.

"We are not aware of any previous occasion where 21 dangerous and affected building notices have been issued," Poole said.

He said some owners took possession of their properties before Building Code compliance certificates were issued, and had been living in the incomplete homes. Four properties in the development received Code Compliance Certificates.

Poole announced a full investigation was to be carried out on the Bella Vista development by an external expert. Details about the investigation would be provided shortly, and the investigator would be asked to proceed as quickly as possible.

The peer-reviewed geotechnical advice from AECOM was that eight buildings were dangerous - mainly due to unretained slopes of up to 6m at the rear of the properties.

The advice said that in heavy or prolonged rainfall it was likely instability would occur, and could result in the slopes failing.

Structural advice from BCD Group determined that 10 buildings were dangerous due to seven key defects. These included issues with roof bracing, lintel fixing, bottom plate fixing, steel beam fixing, floor joist fixing and block wall reinforcing.

BCD carried out invasive testing on 15 buildings. Some buildings had not been tested because owners did not provide consent or that testing has not yet occurred.

Poole told the owners that work would continue on four options, with a final decision on the council's preferred option to be made on June 6.

"Our job doesn't finish here; our focus remains on finding a satisfactory outcome for these owners and that's what we will be doing now".

A question-mark remained earlier tonight around who would pay for the accommodation of families evacuated from their homes.

Following tonight's meeting, the council would be meeting with owners individually.


Four options being explored by council to resolve the issues
- Council works with each owner to discuss how their property could be remediated, if necessary assisting them financially to achieve code compliance with a charge on the property that refunded on resale.
- Council works with each owner to discuss how the property could be remediated at council's cost.
- Council purchased the properties, demolished the buildings and on-sold to a developer as bare land.
- Council completed its expert assessments, issued appropriate notices and provided no further assistance.