A Tauranga couple whose Bella Vista-built home was declared code compliant by the city council were devastated to learn it was dangerous.
"The bottom of our world fell out," Jenny Coffey told the Bay of Plenty Times.
Jenny and Damian Coffey had been living in their home fronting Lakes Boulevard for nearly 18 months when they were ordered to evacuate on March 9 — with 12 other residents of the former Bella Vista subdivision.
They received the bad news they may never be allowed back in their house at a meeting this week between the council and all 21 subdivision property owners.
Building compliance expert Rose McLaughlan concluded in her report prepared for the council that none of the buildings were code compliant.
She said many of the defects may not be easily fixed, and it may not be feasible or cost-effective to undertake remedial work. Remediating the land and repairing some foundations and slabs may be virtually impossible.
At the meeting Jenny Coffey told Tauranga City Council's chief executive Garry Poole she blamed the council.
Three other houses were certified as code compliant.
Poole said he was embarrassed and the council very empathetic to the couple's situation.
He said the council was working 24/7 to resolve the issues that faced homeowners, including an independent investigation.
"We need to know how we got here, and we will find out how we got here," he told the packed meeting.
Poole assured residents that the result of the investigation would be known before the council decided on June 6 what steps it would take to find a satisfactory outcome for home owners.
The council was exploring four options ranging from carrying out its regulatory functions to buying the properties and then on-selling to a developer.
The Coffeys had appeared to be in a better position than most caught up in the liquidation of Bella Vista Homes last year that left an unretained bank cut into the hillside and most of the houses unfinished.
Their home was not directly behind the bank and they had the certificate to prove it complied with the Building Code.
Interviewed yesterday, Jenny Coffey said their bank had made the final payment on a house that was not safe.
"We are devastated. We are almost to the point where we are numb to it."
She said the report supplied by the council on their property showed all the issues were structural. This was despite the council signing off on all the construction stages in order to achieve the full code of compliance certificate.
Jenny Coffey said there had been failures right from the get-go, starting with the requirement for a metre width of compacted soil around the foundations.
The council's report also showed that five lots of documentation had been lost.
She declined to comment on whether they would take legal action prior to the June 6 meeting. And with the council's accommodation support ending on Friday for the 13 evacuated residents, Jenny Coffey said they would be responding to the council's invitation to put forward a case to continue with funding support.
Asked whether their house could be fixed, she cited the council's presentation where it said that it may be not cost-effective to fix the houses.
"It is a tough pill to swallow."
Last night, the Bay of Plenty Times asked Mayor Greg Brownless to comment on the council's building inspection practices revealed after four houses were issued with code compliance certificates when none were found to comply with the Building Code.
He said he was unable to comment until he had full facts from an independent investigation.
"I want to get to the bottom of it," Brownless said.
Responding to suspicions at the meeting the council might have difficulty recruiting a truly independent investigator from within New Zealand, Brownless said they would find someone independent.
The council would meet with property owners individually.
Householders' legal options to the dangerous and affected building notices issued by the council
- Apply to challenge the council's decision
- Apply to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for a determination
- Seek their own legal advice