A class action has been filed and will be served on the Tauranga City Council on behalf of the residents and owners affected by the failed Bella Vista Homes development at The Lakes.
Auckland QC David Heaney, who filed the action, told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend today he had filed proceedings in the Tauranga District Court, which would be served within a few working days on the city council.
"Proceedings have been issued as a class action in respect of residents and owners in the Bella Vista development – Lakes Boulevard and Aneta Way," Heaney said.
"At the moment, only the Konowes and the McDiarmids are named in the proceedings. Because it's a class action the opportunity for any other owner in the development exists for them to join into the proceedings."
The homes of Lee and Denese Konowe and Ron and Sarah McDiarmid were among the 21 Bella Vista properties evacuated on March 9 by the council, which cited concerns for residents' safety ahead of Cyclone Hola.
Since then, dangerous and/or affected building notices have been withdrawn from only three of the properties, meaning they can be reoccupied.
However, only one of the three has been.
The Konowes and McDiarmids are among the 20 households yet to return to their homes.
They told the Bay of Plenty Times earlier this week that they wanted a settlement to allow them to buy similar new homes, something to cover the stress endured, and legal provision to ensure this never happened again.
The Konowes said the ongoing impact of not being able to access their home had affected their health.
"The house we are in at the moment is either the eleventh or twelfth interim place of accommodation we've been in since it happened," Lee Konowe said.
He and his wife had endured weeks of frustration and poor health effects. His wife cried every day. He often joined her, Konowe said.
Heaney said the homeowners had approached him and asked if he would take on the case.
He said he was probably the most experienced local authority litigation lawyer in the country.
Asked if he believed more owners would join the class action, he said: "I have no idea".
"I've done it that way to make sure there's flexibility and in an effort to keep costs to a minimum for the owners."
The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend has spoken to two other Bella Vista homeowners who say the rest of the affected households – all 19 of them – are also considering legal proceedings.
One of those owners, Andre Stewart, said: "We are considering legal proceedings and hope for market value without defects for our properties, which we believe is fair."
The other owner, Jenny Coffey, said the 19 were using a different lawyer and had been advised to wait until a council decision on the fate of the buildings was made on June 6 before considering any legal action.
"We may consider action ... what that action is, is yet to be decided. It will all depend on the council elected members' decision."
Tauranga-based barrister Nathan Smith confirmed to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend today that the 19 homeowners had engaged him as their lawyer and they were considering legal proceedings.
The filing of the class action, the comments made by Heaney, Stewart and Coffey, and the legal proceedings being considered by the other 19 homeowners were all put to the Tauranga City Council for comment.
In response this afternoon, general manager of the council's chief executive group, Kirsty Downey, said: "We have not been served with legal proceedings. Council has no further comment."