It was the word used over and over again as Bella Vista homeowners addressed Tauranga's elected officials face to face for the first time yesterday morning.

Seven of the 21 affected homeowners shared their emotional stories in a public council meeting, talking about how the development's failure threw their lives into disarray and turned home ownership dreams into nightmares.

Damian and Jenny Coffey. Photo / John Borren
Damian and Jenny Coffey. Photo / John Borren

Jenny and Damian Coffey

For Jenny and Damian Coffey, the pain of being evacuated from their home as Cyclone Hola approached in March was compounded by the fear it might stop them from being able to adopt a child.

"Being removed from our home and not having a secure family home has really impacted on this process," Jenny told the council.

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A social worker, however, found their experience made them more resilient as a couple and last week they were accepted on to the adoption register, she said.

"We came so close to losing our dream to have a family. I am so angry at the council.

"We did not ask for this. All we did was buy a house and put our trust in the process."

Hilton Miller. Photo / John Borren
Hilton Miller. Photo / John Borren

Hilton Miller

Hilton Miller spent $6000 from his wedding fund on retaining walls for his home at 299a Lakes Boulevard.

He did get some of the money back, but neither the wedding nor the walls eventuated.

Miller said his relationship with his fiancee ended and his drawn-out build, which was supposed to be finished in mid-February, was not completed.

"I got fleeced," he said.


He said the council, in one way or another, had stopped his build three times.

"Just take it off me."

Degen Prodger. Photo / John Borren
Degen Prodger. Photo / John Borren

Degen and Maryana Prodger

Degen and Maryana Prodger were married 22 years before saving enough to buy a first home for them and their daughter, now 9, at 3 Aneta Way.

"Our dream quickly turned into a nightmare at Bella Vista and the council let us down over and over," Degen said.

Degen said the stress of losing their base made them all sick and his "traumatised" daughter would cry at night to go home.

They were eventually allowed to move home but the ongoing issues - crooked foundation slab, wrongly placed retaining walls - meant they knew the stay would be temporary.

"There is too much risk, pain and heartache associated with the hill we live on."

 Andre and Chloe Stewart. Photo / John Borren
Andre and Chloe Stewart. Photo / John Borren

Andre and Chloe Stewart

In mid-2016 Andre and Chloe Stewart were planning their second baby and picking the paint colours for their first home.

"We were making it our own. We worked hard to get to this point," Andre said.

Chloe said their marriage was strained and the health of all family members deteriorated - including that of their daughter, 2, and son, 11 months - under the stress of the evacuation.

They moved six times in two years.

She said they lost friends but bonded with the other affected homeowners - a neighbourhood that would never be.

"If procedures had been followed correctly from the start we may not be in this position," she said.

Colin and Jan-Marie Mills. Photo / John Borren
Colin and Jan-Marie Mills. Photo / John Borren

Colin and Jan-Marie Mills

Colin Mills asked the council to refund every cent in building consent fees paid by the Bella Vista homeowners.

"You failed, you should not have been paid for that service."

Mills said that when he and his wife, Jan-Marie, signed on to build in The Lakes in 2016, they put their trust in council processes they believed were there to protect them.

He said he did not believe the fault lay entirely with either the council or Bella Vista.

"But something went wrong here.

"Each step that was missed would have been so much an easier fix at the time."

Tony Mann. Photo / John Borren
Tony Mann. Photo / John Borren

Tony Mann

Tony Mann and his three daughters spent weeks being shunted between rooms in four hotels in the weeks after the evacuation.

"I was petrified that with no home to offer them I might lose custody of my girls."

Mann said he worked hard to keep life as normal as possible for his girls, but even cooking was difficult given their gluten allergies.

"How can you create a meal for three children and myself in a microwave?"

He said all his savings were tied up in the house.

"I am sick with worry. The whole process from start to finish has been a nightmare. I have lost total confidence in the council and would never build again."

Sarsha Tyrell. Photo / John Borren
Sarsha Tyrell. Photo / John Borren

Sarsha Tyrell

Sarsha Tyrell's 2-year-old daughter played on the second storey deck of her Aneta Way house during the year they lived there.

After the evacuation, she found out the handrails on the deck had not been properly secured.

"What causes me the most anxiety is what is not already known. It is impossible to know what is behind all the walls, underneath the slabs," she said.

When told she could move back in late April she chose not to, concerned about structural problems and damp issues she believed were linked to her daughter's respiratory issues.

"For my 2-year-old and me, it is not a safe home."

Janeen and Melissa Powell. Photo / John Borren
Janeen and Melissa Powell. Photo / John Borren

Janeen and Melissa Powell

Melissa Powell has put her career aspirations on hold and watched her mother's health regress after the pair were forced to leave their Lakes home.

She said her mum was in and out of hospital for five years but had been improving in the months leading up to the evacuation. After that happened, the symptoms started to return.

"It's been so hard seeing my mum go back to being unwell," Melissa said.

She put on hold her plans to move to Australia this year to pursue her career in sports massage, instead working in a kiwifruit packhouse by day and seeing massage clients in the evenings.