The final witness has given evidence in the trial surrounding the Bella Vista saga.

But it is expected to be some months before Judge Paul Mabey QC delivers his verdict in the case.

It has been five weeks since the judge-alone trial resumed in the Tauranga District Court, after starting in March then being interrupted by the Covid-19 lockdown.

Five parties connected to the Bella Vista subdivision - where 21 houses and building sites were evacuated in March 2018 over safety fears - are defending a raft of charges laid by the Tauranga City Council.

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The parties are engineer Bruce Cameron and his company The Engineer Limited, Bella Vista Homes Limited and its director Danny Cancian, and bricklayer Darrel Joseph.

Now, prosecution and defence counsel will begin preparing their written closing submissions.

Judge Mabey's decision is expected to be delivered later this year.

Yesterday in court, two witnesses were called to speak to evidence Cameron gave last week about why he believed he and his company were not responsible for various failings in the subdivision.

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.

Some Bella Vista homes being removed from The Lakes subdivision. Photo / File
Some Bella Vista homes being removed from The Lakes subdivision. Photo / File

On Friday, Cameron testified the works he signed off at the time would have been no issue if the building works had been carried out in accordance with the consents. He was not to know during his inspection what changes might be made afterwards, he told the court.

Today, senior civil and structural engineer Colin Jacobson - an expert witness for the prosecution recalled to the stand - disputed this, saying issues with masonry construction, ground stability and cut reinforcing steel should have been picked up by Cameron and reported.

Judge Mabey questioned Jacobson about the expectation of a professional engineer's observations during a pre-pour site inspection, particularly regarding a rear wall that was consented to be 1 metre high but ended up as 2.8m high - breaching its consent.

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"Coming on to site and seeing the excavation ... should it have been obvious that there was no way in the world that a 1m 3604 wall was ever going to be built on this property, ever?"

Jacobson replied: "Yes, it would have been plainly obvious."

Mabey continued: "Should there have been a red light that the footing was never going to be up to scratch ... ?

Jacobson confirmed this, saying the project manager or design engineer should have been notified of the issue so remedial work could have been done.

Some homes were left incomplete when there was an evacuation of 21 properties at the Bella Vista site in The Lakes. Photo / File
Some homes were left incomplete when there was an evacuation of 21 properties at the Bella Vista site in The Lakes. Photo / File

Mabey: "So it's one thing to look at design plans but when you turn up and things aren't what they should be ... you just have to go back to the drawing board, then ensure what's going to be put up conforms to what you've got?"

Jacobson: "Yes."

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Cameron declined the opportunity to testify again in response.

The last witness for the defence, Rex Moyle, then took the stand, reading a statement essentially saying Cameron was not at fault, in Moyle's view, and criticising the council.

Moyle, who has a 51-year building background and regularly acts as an expert or advocate in court cases, told the court Cameron and The Engineer Limited should not be held responsible for the defects at the Bella Vista sites he inspected.

"It is a reasonable assumption that this work was carried out after Mr Cameron carried out his inspection as such it should not be considered a defect to Mr Cameron's inspection or issuing of a PS4 [producer statement] as his responsibilities ended when he left the site."

Moyle also said he disagreed with evidence already provided by expert witnesses in the case.

He said they "got it wrong" when referring to misplaced or cut and exposed reinforcing steel issues that should have been picked up by Cameron.

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The court heard that an engineer could not be held responsible "for anything he did not actually inspect" and reinforcing steel was not expected to be "millimetre perfect".

Moyle also said that while producer statements could be considered as "sign off" from an engineer that matters are safe and compliant, the onus is on the building consent authority (BCA) to ensure they actually are. In this case, the council.

Other people who carried out inspections should also be held to the same level of scrutiny as Cameron, he said.

Under cross-examination by prosecution counsel Richard Marchant, Moyle confirmed he had never worked for a council, was not a geo-technical engineer, structural engineer and was only giving evidence regarding two Bella Vista properties.

Moyle replied to Marchant: "What you're trying to do is paint me as having no brains at all and having no experience with a council. Well, I have 50 years of it."

"I haven't worked for council, I'm not an engineer but that's not to say I don't know something about it," Moyle said.

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The charges: Who gets how many and what are they?

Bella Vista Homes Ltd

- Seven charges of breaching building consent in relation to 5 Aneta Way and 307, 297, 297a, 299, 301 and 301a Lakes Boulevard, in particular: foundation walls not constructed as per approved plans; inadequate ground-bearing capacity; misplaced or absent reinforcing steel; inadequate wall footing; wall heights exceeding approved plans; timber cladding or cladding system not constructed as per plans, consent specifications and NZ Building Code – specifically incorrect formation of external corner and failure to provide position for drainage; and cut ends of timber weatherboards not fully primed.

Danny Cancian, director of Bella Vista Homes Limited

- Seven charges of breaching building consent in relation to 5 Aneta Way and 307, 297, 297a, 299, 301 and 301a Lakes Boulevard, in particular: foundation walls not constructed as per approved plans; inadequate ground-bearing capacity; misplaced or absent reinforcing steel; inadequate wall footing; wall heights exceeding approved plans; timber cladding or cladding system not constructed as per plans, consent specifications and NZ Building Code – specifically incorrect formation of external corner and failure to provide position for drainage; and cut ends of timber weatherboards not fully primed.

The Engineer Limited

- Six charges of breaching building consent in relation to 307, 301, 303, 307 and 297 Lakes Boulevard in particular: foundation walls not constructed as per approved plans; inadequate ground-bearing capacity; misplaced or absent reinforcing steel; and wall heights exceeding approved plans.

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Bruce Cameron, director of The Engineer Limited

- Six charges of breaching building consent in relation to 307, 301, 303, 307, 297, and 301 Lakes Boulevard, in particular: foundation walls not constructed as per approved plans; inadequate ground-bearing capacity; misplaced reinforcing steel; inadequate wall footing; and wall heights exceeding approved plans.

Darrel Joseph, blocklayer

- Three charges of breaching building consent in relation to 297, 299 and 307 Lakes Boulevard, in particular: foundation walls not constructed as per approved plans; inadequate wall footing; misplaced or absent reinforcing steel; and wall heights exceeding approved plans.

Maximum penalties for each charge are fines of up to $200,000 and in the case of a continuing offence, a fine of up to $10,000 for every day or part of a day during which the offence has continued.