Cold water has been poured on Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless' hope that the council would eventually "break even" on Bella Vista costs.

In a council meeting yesterday Councillor John Robson said the numbers he had seen did not support Brownless' hope, which was expressed in the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday after news operational costs had hit $4.2 million, excluding the cost of buying and remediating the 21 properties and any profits from their eventual sale.

Chief executive Marty Grenfell said he expected the eventual cost, all told, to ratepayers would be around $4 million.

Tauranga City Council chief executive Marty Grenfell. Photo / George Novak
Tauranga City Council chief executive Marty Grenfell. Photo / George Novak

Responding to a call from Councillor Steve Morris for internal accountability over council failings in relation to the saga, identified in two official reports, Grenfell said he was expecting a draft of an internal report on the actions of individual staff in two weeks.

He said he would rely on that report in his decisions around "whether or not there needs to be some accountability".


Grenfell later told the Bay of Plenty Times he would not decide how much, if any, of that report to make public until after he had seen it as it would include a lot of personal details about staff.

Tauranga Councillor Steve Morris. Photo / File
Tauranga Councillor Steve Morris. Photo / File

The meeting heard the council was in the process of making a series of policy, training and other changes around its building control activities.

The changes were in response to actions required by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in its review of the council's handling of the Bella Vista development.

Councillor Larry Baldock said change was necessary, but the council's building control staff still needed to be able to use common sense to avoid adding red tape and increasing the cost of building on less complex sites.

Tauranga Councillor Larry Baldock. Photo / File
Tauranga Councillor Larry Baldock. Photo / File

The council was also working through a change to the City Plan around earthworks, dealing with sediment control, how earthworks were handled post-subdivision and how steep driveways were allowed to be.

The ministry's Paul Hobbs, lead advisor on the report, said he could see progress was being made and the ministry would formally check in again in six months, then in a year.

Talking through his report, he said the retaining issues at the multi-level site were "unprecedented" in his experience around New Zealand.

Tauranga Councillor John Robson. Photo / File
Tauranga Councillor John Robson. Photo / File

"It is unprecedented to see large cuts like that not dealt with before the buildings go on site."

He said it was a "big ask" to think that the retaining would have ever have been able to be done after the building was finished, given the narrow spaces between houses that big machines would have needed to access.

The council should have intervened earlier when it became clear the cuts were eroding.

Earlier in the meeting, a critic accused councillors of "black-listing" her group and the council of causing the Bella Vista development to fail.

Suzie Edmonds, spokeswoman for the Tauranga City Council - Exposed 2019 group, spoke in the public forum to tell councillors her group were not "haters or toxic people" as she said they had been called.

She said she first requested to speak to elected officials in June last year confidentially and since then had been repeatedly denied.

Edmonds tabled a report containing the group's responses and critiques of various reports relied on by the council.