Tauranga City Council says "it is unlikely" the internal investigation report into its building inspection team in relation to the failed Bella Vista Homes development will be released publicly.

The investigation is being headed by retired judge Graeme Colgan and began in October last year.

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said, at the time, the investigation was aimed at identifying the "hard truths" around council failings in its building consent authority capacity.

He also said that the council had to face the issue head-on and that it hoped to have the investigation finished by the end of the year.

Advertisement

The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend asked for an update this week and was told by a council media spokesman that it did not have a date for the completion of the Colgan report.

"It is unlikely that the report will be made publicly available, as it is an internal employment matter."

Six of the 21 Bella Vista homeowners responded to questions from the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend yesterday and, in a combined statement, said they all thought the Colgan report should be made public.

"The report should be made public because this mistake has cost ratepayers a lot of money and they deserve to know why," was a response from one of the homeowners.

Another said: "I think the report should be completed and made public ... council have got away with enough."

A third response was: "We all, ratepayers included, are owed an explanation as to why this happened."

Bella Vista Homes went into voluntary liquidation in November 2017, leaving behind unfinished houses and millions of dollars in outstanding debts.

The city council then ordered the emergency evacuation of 21 Bella Vista houses at The Lakes in March last year, as a cyclone approached. Those houses remain fenced off and vacant.

Advertisement

In June last year, a separate, independent investigation by former High Court judge Paul Heath QC into the council's role in the failed development was released publicly.

The report found the council acted correctly in some areas but failed in others.

Heath said in his report that there was a need for an inquiry or investigation into "why" the council failed to perform adequately relevant regulatory functions.

He said it was important to investigate what lessons could be learned from the failures to minimise the risk of something like this happening again.

When approached by the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend yesterday about the Colgan report, Heath said he could not comment.

Meanwhile, council chief executive Marty Grenfell said yesterday that there were two investigations currently under way.

"One is a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) technical review of policies and procedures, and the other is an internal employment investigation into the roles, responsibility and accountability of staff," he said.

Tauranga City Council chief executive Marty Grenfell. Photo / File
Tauranga City Council chief executive Marty Grenfell. Photo / File

Grenfell said the ministry investigation was announced after discussion in the Heath report of a possible "why investigation".

"It is likely that this will address a number of matters noted in the Heath report as warranting further consideration. The MBIE report will be made publicly available."

He said the council had separately asked Graeme Colgan to undertake an internal employment investigation into staff roles, accountability and performance relating to the Bella Vista development.

"This is a stand-alone employment matter and is not suitable for public release. In fact, there are legal reasons why this cannot be released," Grenfell said.

"Once both the MBIE review and Mr Colgan's reports are complete, the council will consider whether a summary of the findings of the Colgan report can be released in light of the legal constraints noted above.

"Together, we expect that these will provide adequate information for council and the community to understand why and how the failings occurred."

Brownless said yesterday there were some restrictions around employment-related information being released, "but I still would like the public to eventually know as much as possible".

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless. Photo / File
Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless. Photo / File

The ministry's review into the city council's building control activities is continuing.

Paul Hobbs, the ministry's acting manager of building system assurance, said last year that they would release the findings and outcomes of the review in a report once the investigation was complete and all evidence and information had been considered.

He said they initially anticipated the review would be complete by November, and a report on the findings released the following month, but because of "the complex nature of the review there has been a significant body of work for the team to collect and assess".

"We now hold all the information requested for the review and the team are busy working through this, we expect that a report [will be] published in the New Year."

Bella Vista police complaint

Police say they spoke to a woman this week over concerns regarding Bella Vista Homes.

The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend understands those concerns are in relation to the planned removal and demolition work of the Bella Vista Homes properties at The Lakes.

A Tauranga City Council spokesman said yesterday: "We are aware that a member of the public has made a complaint to police regarding the former Bella Vista subdivision. We have been co-operating with police, and will continue to do so."

The Bay of Plenty Times reported earlier this week that work on the fenced-off properties would begin in the coming weeks, with the upper levels of some of the houses likely to be removed, and the block foundations demolished.

At a meeting on December 19, the council resolved to "salvage, repair, remove or demolish Bella Vista homes".

Any demolition is likely to still be six weeks away and the council has said it is aiming to salvage what is possible before selling the homes and/or land.

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said this week that before any demolition took place, there would be further opportunity for technical investigation and viewing for legal purposes.

Several parties are currently before the court facing charges laid by the Tauranga City Council over the failed Bella Vista development.

The charges relate to alleged non-compliance with the Building Act, including carrying out building works without consents.

The next hearing is on February 1 at the Tauranga District Court.

Police said as the matter was before the court, they had nothing further to add about this week's complaint.

"The council has filed charges in the Tauranga District Court. Please note, they are the prosecuting agency, not police," a police spokeswoman said.

It was revealed in December that the Tauranga City Council had spent $14 million buying the 21 Bella Vista houses at The Lakes.

This was offset by an insurance payment of $10.5 million, leaving a difference of $3.5 million.

Read more: Big Read: The Bella Vista Homes nightmare