Twenty-one properties in The Lakes were evacuated yesterday, angering residents.
Tauranga City Council chief executive Garry Poole yesterday issued a warrant to evacuate the properties, built by the liquidated developer, Bella Vista Homes, to avoid immediate danger.
The council said it received advice from a geotechnical specialist yesterday morning that the properties needed to be vacated.
Part of the reason for the urgency was the potential arrival of Cyclone Hola next week, the council said, but an unretained slope in the area was also at risk of failing.
Poole said 21 properties and 13 families were affected.
The council was focusing on getting them and their pets out before 8pm yesterday to allow some properties to be "fixed" and others vacated before the cyclone.
Residents were expected to be away from their homes for about a week.
Residents could be seen arriving home yesterday and finding the notices on their doors.
Jenny and Damian Coffey, who have four dogs, found out about 3pm when a neighbour called.
Jenny Coffey rushed home to find the note on her door.
"We've been told that we have to take all of our stuff for a week and what does that actually mean?"
The couple moved into their Bella Vista home in December 2016 with a full code of compliance.
"I'm really angry because this is the first I've ever heard of it. We've lived here for 18 months, and now we're being told that we can't be in our home due to our own health and safety reasons."
Resident Tony Mann said he got an evacuation notice via email about 1.45pm.
Mann said there was a "huge amount" of concern and anger from the residents.
"They're all fuming. This is peoples' lives; this is their money. I don't really want to leave my home, I've got three girls. It's less than ideal."
Another resident who lives in a house above the retaining wall had been there for a year and said his wife found the note on their door and phoned him at work.
"She was upset, stressed and I couldn't believe it."
The man, who did not want to be named, said he did not have any fears because he knew the retaining wall and believed it was not going to be a problem.
But he and his family, including an 8-year-old daughter, would leave with the others just to be sure, he said.
Andre Stewart, who is in the middle of building his retaining walls, questioned a lack of communication from the council.
"I've had diggers and eight-wheelers up there so how come we're only finding out about this now?
"I'm a bit gutted. We were meant to have retaining walls start next week. We are only 50 per cent of the way through.
"They've allowed people to live where it's not a liveable place."
The council said after the liquidation of Bella Vista Homes on November 30, it assessed all the homes, including inspections by building and engineering specialists.
Assessments were due to be completed within weeks.
The homes were in varying stages of completion, and the assessment was to find out what the homes needed to be compliant with the building code.
Garry Poole said at a press conference yesterday the situation was one of the most unusual he had encountered and the council's hand had largely been forced by Bella Vista Homes.
"Many of us cannot recall managing something like this in Tauranga city before," Poole said.
The council's focus right now was on ensuring homeowners were being looked after, he said.
Poole said under the warrant used to force the evacuation of the homes, homeowners could be forced to pay costs incurred but "it is not our intention to do that".
He said the absence of retaining walls was brought to the attention of the builders and Bella Vista "many, many times" but the council was given assurance the walls would be put in place after construction. Then the company went into liquidation.
Poole said the council could not demand a "certain sequencing of the building process".
He said the Building Act did not require or empower the council to enforce building of the retaining wall before the build.
"When we get through this and have a debrief, clearly we will have some lessons learned and some actions arising from that.
"It may well be we are in a position to make a recommendation to the appropriate authorities that the Building Act does contain the ability for a regulator such as a council to dictate the sequence of building activity."
Poole said the properties would be inspected after the arrival of Hola and it would then decide if home occupants could return.
Meanwhile, the liquidator of Bella Vista Homes is taking legal advice.
Rhys Cain, a Christchurch-based practitioner, took over the liquidation proceedings from Thomas Rodewald and Kim Thompson in January.
Asked whether liquidators were taking legal action against the council, Cain said they were taking advice from solicitors.
The first liquidator's report in November found Bella Vista Homes went into liquidation leaving behind 30 unfinished houses and owing at least $4.35 million to 95 creditors.