A witness in the trial for the five parties charged over the failed Bella Vista Homes development says he was a victim of online bullying by the developer and his followers.
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Nigel Mogford, a former Tauranga City Council building compliance team leader, made the allegation against Bella Vista Homes' developer Danny Cancian, who is one of five parties on trial in Tauranga District Court which began on Monday.
Mogford said he worked for the council in that role in 2016 and 2017.
Bella Vista Homes Limited, The Engineer Limited, their respective directors Cancian and Bruce Cameron, and bricklayer Darrel Joseph are defending various charges laid by Tauranga City Council.
The charges relate to the defendants allegedly carrying out building works not in accordance with the Building Act, in particular, a building consent.
Cancian and Bella Vista Homes Limited, which is now in liquidation, are defending seven charges each of carrying out building work not in accordance with a building consent.
The council has alleged block foundation walls at 297, 297A, 299, 301, 301A, and 307 Lakes Boulevard were not constructed in accordance with approved plans.
This includes an allegation there were defects in the steel reinforcing and the wall footings in some rear walls were inadequately sized to resist soil loads.
It is further alleged the timber cladding system at 5 Aneta Way was not built in line with approved building plans, the building consent, nor to the manufacturer's requirements.
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Bricklayer Darrel Joseph has pleaded not guilty to three charges of carrying out building work not I in accordance with approved plans at three Lakes Boulevard properties.
Joseph's charges relate to alleged defects in block walls and foundations including inadequate wall footings and reinforcing steel at 297, 299 and 307 Lakes Boulevard.
Bruce Cameron and The Engineer Limited are defending four of the same charges each also relating to block foundation walls at three Lakes Boulevard properties.
He is also defending two further charges of carrying out building work not in accordance with a building consent, which relates to alleged inadequate ground-bearing capacity.
The two charges are in relation to site works at 303 and 307 Lakes Boulevard.
Giving evidence in the trial yesterday, Mogford said when he first met Cancian he was impressed that he was not only the developer but also the principal licensed building practitioner on site.
Later dealings with Cancian "soured" after the council's building inspectors began failing inspections after they found significant defects with some of the works, particularly at the Lakes Boulevard site, he said
At a site meeting held on August 26, 2016, which was intended to try to find solutions and a way forward, Cancian made it "crystal clear" he was not happy, particularly when told he needed to engage another geotechnical engineer as landscaping contouring on the 21 sites appeared "significantly" at odds with the building consent.
Mogford said the meeting ended badly after a heated exchange with Cancian, who had become aggressive toward him and two other council officers.
Following the meeting, an email was sent to Cancian making it clear he needed to comply with the building consent and resolve these issues, he said.
Mogford said he could not seem to get that message through to Cancian.
"Danny told us he felt he was being singled out and targeted by myself and Laurie Hubbard in relation to the serious non-compliance issues, but that was not true."
Hubbard, another former council building compliance officer who was also present at the August 2016 meeting, earlier gave evidence she was "abused and bullied" by Cancian.
Mogford said as a result of online bullying by Cancian and his followers and a threat by Cancian that if there were any more problems, he would file a legal suit against him and Hubbard, he left the council.
Cancian claimed they [building inspectors] were acting in bad faith against him and Bella Vista Homes, he said.
"The main reason I left was because of all the online social media stuff and I thought it would make Danny Cancian and his followers happy and they would leave me alone."
Mogford said there were also affidavits from a former council builder inspector who claimed that he and Hubbard tried to put Bella Vista Homes and Cancian out of business.
These affidavits, the relentless online bullying and phone messages left by Cancian caused extreme distress to him and his family, he said.
Mogford said at one stage there was a "horrible" Facebook post that stated he and the council's inspectors should all be herded into the unfinished Bella Vista homes and the buildings set alight so the poster could watch them burn.
"It made me quite physically sick and I have never been felt so hated in all my life ... It felt like being back in the Middle Ages when witches were burnt at the stake," he said.
Mogford said the social media posts did not stop so he closed his Facebook profile.
Two owners of local excavation companies both gave evidence that it was definitely Cancian "calling the shots" in relation to works at Lakes Boulevard and Aneta Way sites.
"If anything unusual came up with the excavation and cutting of the sites it all went back to Danny to make decisions," witness Cory Craven-Murphy said.
"I can recall at least one time when Danny over-rode the instructions of his project manager or site manager, such as changing the level of a driveway if it was too steep."
The council brought charges against the five defendants after 21 houses in various stages of completion in The Lakes were evacuated in March 2018.
The trial continues.