A $70,000 handshake deal and admissions of forgery surrounding the failed Bella Vista Homes development have played out in court as the blame game between the director and project manager continues.
Bella Vista Homes Limited, The Engineer Limited, their respective directors Danny Cancian and Bruce Cameron, and bricklayer Darrel Joseph are defending a raft of charges in the Tauranga District Court.
The charges laid by Tauranga City Council related to the defendants allegedly carrying out building works which were not in accordance with the Building Act, in particular a building consent. They relate to 21 houses in The Lakes in various stages of completion that were evacuated in March 2018.
Builder Lee Corner sat in the dock at Tauranga District Court today confirming he worked as a builder and later as project manager in the development.
The court previously heard during the judge-alone trial this week of people working for Bella Vista being approached by Cancian, following the company's collapse. He was asking them to make a statement that Corner was the LBP (licensed building practitioner) responsible for the properties at the centre of the court case.
After questioning by lead prosecution counsel Richard Marchant, Corner told the court he was made aware of those messages and disputed he was LBP for any Bella Vista sites, as did other witnesses who have so far testified in the trial this week.
"I wouldn't have done it. I've had my LBP [licence] for a long time but I've only ever used it on work that I have physically done. There's no way I'd put my licence number and name to buildings that I didn't build."
The court heard Cancian's allegation had also prompted an investigation by the Building Practitioners Board, which was holding its investigation into Corner and others until the court case was dealt with.
"From what I understand they are doing an investigation involving five or six LBPs that have all been pulled into this process."
Corner told the court of a deal between himself and Cancian that resulted in a Bella Vista lot discount of $5000 for every home Corner completed as the project manager. The court heard there were as many as 14 properties, equating to $70,000 and the lot was worth $330,000.
The deal for a $5000 discount per property was sealed with a handshake, Corner said.
Cancian's defence counsel Bill Nabney put to Corner: "That extra payment was for you to be the LBP wasn't it?"
Corner said: "No, no it wasn't."
Cancian could be seen enthusiastically gesturing from the defence bench, prompting an interjection from Judge Paul Mabey QC: "Cancian, keep your nodding down."
Corner said there was never any discussion about him using his LBP for Bella Vista Homes and he had been told when he was hired that Cancian himself would do all the signing off.
In November 2017 when Corner rang to inquire about the discount he had accrued, he was told by Cancian the lot was now full-price, Corner said.
Nabney suggested that was because Corner did not sign off on some sites but Corner rejected this, saying that discussion happened a day or so before the company went into liquidation.
"He needed to sell those at full price. He was desperate."
Corner said he was "gutted".
He told the court he had heard that he had been blamed by Cancian for allegedly forging his name on Records of Work (ROW) documents for at least two homes, which he rejected.
Under cross-examination, Nabney referred to a transcript of an interview Cancian gave as part of the court case in which he said someone had forged his name on those documents but did not say it was Corner.
In testifying later that day, Zander Perano, who worked as administration support for Bella Vista Homes, admitted it was him.
After questioning by Nabney, Perano said he had filed documents for those homes and potentially used pre-signed pages to update them.
In re-examination by Marchart , Perano confirmed he "fraudulently created" three ROWs for 299, 301, and 307 Lakes Boulevard.
Both Corner and Perano named Cancian as Bella Vista's LBP.
The trial continues.