The engineer at the centre of a court case resulting from the urgent evacuation of 21 Bella Vista homes says he is not to blame for signing off some of the affected properties during construction.
Rather, the local council is, he says.
Defendant Bruce Cameron testified in the Tauranga District Court today in the judge-alone trial presided over by Judge Paul Mabey, QC. The Engineer Limited, Bella Vista Homes Limited, and their respective directors Cameron and Danny Cancian, plus bricklayer Darryl Joseph, are defending a raft of charges relating to carrying out building works which were not in accordance with the Building Act, in particular a building consent.
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Cameron has been accused of inspecting building works at some of the homes and signing producer statements, 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 council brought the charges following the March 2018 evacuation, which was prompted by concerns the homes were unsafe. Cameron told the court today it was entirely possible for work to be amended - potentially making it non-compliant - after it had been inspected by an engineer. The onus to identify that was on the council, not the engineer, he said.
"Council inspectors who come along to do their final inspections, that's when those elements should be checked," Cameron said.
"That's the final [inspection] before the compliance certification."
Cameron's defence counsel, Noel King, asked his client: "Are you saying changes can happen to something you've inspected after you've inspected it?"
Cameron: "Absolutely. Inspections are a snapshot in time. You can't expect an inspector to be responsible for works that may have happened after the inspection."
The producer statements, known as PS4s, are documents that engineers, such as Cameron, sign to certify an aspect of a build is safe and compliant with consented plans. These statements are then given to local councils as an indication that building works meet requirements.
Building code and local government experts who previously testified in this case said councils often relied on producer statements for technical aspects of a build which could be outside the scope or capability of the council's building inspectors.
Cameron told the court that where work detailed in consent plans was not yet built, such as retaining walls, he anticipated it would be completed after his inspection.
As Cameron gave his evidence, he sat next to a long piece of wood with a large rod of D12 reinforcing steel attached at its top and bottom.
Some of the charges involved in this case relate to reinforcing steel being placed at non-compliant measurements inside walls which Cameron is accused of signing off.
Cameron showed the court how easy it was to move the affixed steel rod.
"I can get that to move from one side to another and that's a 70mm piece of wood and the top and bottom haven't moved a bit."
Cameron added that he was not there, as an engineer, to pick out and measure every single steel rod in an entire block wall. Rather, his job was to do an overall audit of that work.
On Tuesday afternoon, bricklayer Luke Halsey also showed how easy it was to push the centre of a reinforcing rod attached at the top and bottom.
Halsey told the court that in construction, such steel rods could move even though they may be tied to other steel rods.
Under cross-examination by prosecution counsel Richard Marchant, Halsey confirmed it was the responsibility of the bricklayer licensed building practitioner and the engineer who issued the producer statement certification to check the reinforcing steel was in the appropriate places before moving on to the next stage of work.
Marchant: "Can you think of a reason why a person would want to deliberately move steel?"
Halsey said he could not.
The trial continues.