In a quiet, neat suburban street in Pāpāmoa Beach, two fenced-off building sites appear frozen in time.
Reporter Scott Yeoman investigates the link between the deserted properties and recently collapsed company Coast Homes Limited.
An Auckland woman who was having a house built by Coast Homes Limited says she paid the Tauranga company two instalments totaling $267,000 – but doesn't even have a concrete slab foundation to show for it.
The two parties are now locked in an ongoing property dispute and disagree over how much work should have been done for the money already spent.
The building contract was cancelled earlier this year and negotiations to form a new agreement failed. This month, Coast Homes was put into liquidation owing a significant amount of money to the taxman, and to several local businesses.
Victoria Johnson, from Auckland, owns one of two deserted building sites in Te Aranga Dr in Pāpāmoa Beach. Both sites were previously owned by Coast Homes.
Johnson said she bought her site from Coast Homes in 2016 for $320,000.
The 52-year-old said she then put down her first deposit with the company in May last year to get a three-bedroom, two-storey home built.
About five months later, she was asked for the second instalment, which she paid in early October.
Altogether, Johnson said she had so far paid Coast Homes $267,000 for the house.
"It doesn't even have a slab," she said. "It's just at ground zero. The slab hasn't even been poured."
The building consent for Johnson's house was granted on November 6 last year.
Then there were delays in the lead up to Christmas.
In February, Johnson said she was asked by Coast Homes for a third instalment of $131,000.
She didn't pay it. Instead, she drove down to Pāpāmoa Beach to find there was still no slab laid on the site.
Johnson said she phoned Coast Homes' director and owner Stephen Short to ask about the lack of progress and was allegedly told the site had failed pre-inspection with the council.
Johnson said she went into the council office the next morning and was told the building consent (that had been granted three months prior) hadn't yet been paid for or picked up, and that there had been no inspection at the site.
The Bay of Plenty Times has independently confirmed with the council that the building consent was granted on November 6 last year, and that no inspection has been undertaken at the site to date.
Johnson said at that stage she went to a lawyer. Over the next several months, she said they went back and forth with Short.
She said she legally cancelled her building contract with Coast Homes in early April this year after more than six months of no work or progress on the site, and "multiple attempts in vain" to get Short to take action.
She alleges Short stopped work and abandoned the site (he disputes this), and that he wouldn't respond to calls or emails or letters.
"He promised to meet with me and then failed to show up."
In May, Johnson said she warned Coast Homes against visiting her site without her express consent.
She said discussions and negotiations about a new agreement, to complete the build with Short's new company, CDL (2018) Limited, were ultimately unsuccessful.
Johnson said she wants nothing more to do with Short. She said she had spent a lot of money (on top of the $267,000 for the house) on legal bills.
"That's financially destroyed me. I'm a woman on my own, I've worked bloody hard for 20 years … and he just starts up and carries on with another company, it's not right."
When the Times contacted Short this month about the Coast Homes liquidation, he said he closed the business down a year ago after it had built all the houses it needed to.
He said the company was bound to a restraint of trade at the Coast Papamoa Beach development, which he said had been sold out – "there was no more land, so we couldn't build anymore".
He said there was about $200,000 in creditors and confirmed that Coast Homes also owed the IRD "close to" $1 million.
Short, who earlier this month said there were no half-built or unfinished houses, last week confirmed his company's link to the two properties in Te Aranga Dr.
He said because Johnson cancelled her building contract and threatened to trespass Coast Homes from the site if they entered, the company was not contracted anymore to build the house.
"...which [is] why I advised you Coast Homes has no unfinished homes."
Short said he and Johnson had been working with their respective lawyers to reach a new agreement, so that Johnson's home could be transferred and completed under his new company, CDL (2018) Limited.
He said that was what was done with the other unfinished Coast Homes build in Te Aranga Dr; the contract was replaced earlier in the year.
"And we are finishing that house for our client."
The Times has attempted to contact that client. As of last week, the site had an incomplete shell of a house on it.
Short confirmed Johnson paid his company $267,000 in two instalments – "exactly as per our agreed build contract a non-refundable deposit and then a substantially completed floor payment".
He said it only takes a day to pour a concrete floor, and that the site works that have been completed are "exactly as per our contract". Johnson disputes that.
Short confirmed there were pre-Christmas delays on work to Johnson's house. He said his company communicated that to her.
"…we had our builders finishing homes for other clients before Christmas so she was well aware of the lack of progress".
He said once his employees returned to work in late January, they were to continue working on Johnson's home. He said that was also communicated to her.
"…however that's when she panicked and went to lawyers".
Short said while the building consent for the house was available on November 6, "consents are picked up when needed".
He said there was no need to pick the consent up until works were underway.
Short said his company never abandoned Johnson's site. He said the relationship and communications between the two parties broke down in early February.
He said his company could not afford to build the home if there was a risk that payments would not get made, or until a way forward had been agreed.
Short said he had every intention to get the job completed and had been working on doing so, up until two weeks ago.
He said he remained optimistic and in a position to complete Johnson's house, as soon as the parties signed a new contract.
However, Short said it appeared that Johnson had now assumed a deal wouldn't be reached.
Meanwhile, the Times also spoke to four Tauranga businesses last week, which did not want to be named, that all said they were still owed thousands of dollars by Coast Homes.
•August 2016: Site in Te Aranga Dr bought from Coast Homes for $320,000.
•May 2018: First deposit for a three-bedroom, two-storey home paid to Coast Homes.
•October 2018: Second instalment paid to Coast Homes, bringing the total to $267,000.
•November 2018: Building consent granted.
•February 2019: Third instalment of $131,000 requested, but not paid. No concrete slab foundation laid on site. Building consent not paid for, not picked up. Lawyers engaged.
•April 2019: Building contract cancelled.
•September 2019: Coast Homes put into liquidation.