Revelations of a previous complaint, a demand for respect and details of a "battle of wills" were aired during the Bella Vista Homes trial in Tauranga District Court

The judge-only trial, presided over by Judge Paul Mabey QC, follows the evacuation of 21 homes in The Lakes development in March 2018, prompted by safety concerns.

The defendants are civil engineer Bruce Cameron and his company The Engineer Limited, along with Bella Vista Homes Limited and its director Danny Cancian, and bricklayer Darryl Joseph.

They face a raft of charges relating to carrying out building works which were not in accordance with the Building Act, in particular a building consent.


Cameron started giving evidence on Wednesday and continued today.

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At one point, he was told off by both the judge and prosecution counsel Richard Marchant.

Following a back-and-forth between Marchant and Cameron, Judge Mabey intervened, reprimanding Cameron and instructing him to answer questions clearly and specifically.

"Do not treat the other people in this room as stupid. We are not," Judge Mabey said.

Moments later, Cameron referred to Marchant as "Mr Merchant".

The lawyer responded: "The name is Marchant. Mr Cancian tried to do it to me twice already also and I won't have it. You know my name, you show me some respect."

Cameron has been accused of inspecting building works at some of the homes and signing producer statements (PS4s), in his role as an engineer, for Bella Vista Homes that were then submitted to the Tauranga City Council indicating the properties were safe and compliant.


The court heard Cameron failed to inspect the sites in accordance with specifics detailed in building consents.

Cameron disputed this, saying he was "drilling down further" into the consents and adhering to the New Zealand Building Code instead.

Marchant put to Cameron that his work with some Bella Vista sites was of such concern to the council, he was sent a checklist "example of work" that he was to follow.

This was prompted by Cameron not providing enough information to the council, the court heard.

Marchant put to Cameron: "Because of the council's concerns ... they sent the example to you and your clients and other engineers ... identifying what their expectation was of you, as far as ground-bearing was concerned.

"Clearly the council was having an issue with you."


Cameron said he knew what the requirements were and expected the council to "follow legislation, just as I was following it".

Marchant said: "So this was a battle of wills between you and the council and they insisted that you needed to provide more detail."

The court heard Cameron likened building consent plans to "just a little sketch" and regarded them as "like a contents page".

Cameron said he chose to work with underlying details instead because "that's what I do; I understand how to read plans and how to interpret them".

Marchant put to Cameron that "you effectively disregarded" the consent plans.

Cameron disputed this but Marchant continued, questioning why Cameron did not do more about the non-compliant works, as an expert in his professional capacity.


"You are clearly there as an expert to look at and analyse footings. So you go in there, you don't look, use judgment, apply professional sense, you simply say 'I'm not there to inspect that' and move on," Marchant said.

"You simply went there, had a piece of paper ... gave a cursory look, took the money, put it in your pocket and moved on."

Cameron confirmed he was focused on footing (wall base) inspections and did not do anything more than make a note regarding potential issues, but also said he did not believe some aspects were non-compliant, at that stage.

Cameron maintained his defence, from Wednesday, that the works he signed off at the time would have been no issue if the building works been carried out in accordance with the consents. He was not to know during his inspection what changes might be made afterwards.

The court heard there had been a complaint regarding Cameron's lack of action around cut-off reinforcing steel that had not been protected on a previous job - a claim with significant similarities to one of the charges Cameron is now defending regarding the Bella Vista homes.

Cameron confirmed the complaint had been laid about 18 months to two years before his involvement with Bella Vista. The complaint was taken no further.


Cameron is one of the last defendants to testify in the court case, which is about to enter its fifth week after resuming last month.

The trial continues.