18 Apr 2018

Bella Vista residents left in limbo: 'Right now there is nothing'

7:58 pm on 18 April 2018

The owners of 21 properties at a Tauranga development who will not be able to return to their homes because they have been deemed too dangerous to live in say someone needs to take responsibility for the debacle.

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Photo: RNZ / Sophia Duckor-Jones

The developers of the Bella Vista Homes development went into liquidation in December leaving about 30 properties unfinished.

The Tauranga City Council had been assessing the properties since early February due to major construction failings in all of the properties.

Based on the findings of geotechnical, structural, and compliance experts, the council deemed that all of the 21 properties are 'dangerous and affected', or 'affected' under the Building Act 2004.

In March, 13 families were forced to evacuate with only 24 hours notice amid fears Cyclone Hola could do serious damage and they have not been back since.

The owner of one of the homes said his family remains in limbo.

Andre Stewart and his family are living in rental accommodation but still have a mortgage to pay, as well as rates.

He wants to be able to move on.

"But how long is that going to take and at what cost until we are basically completely broke."

He said he applied to the council for relief from rates but was turned down.

Mr Stewart said a number of homes were issued with a council code of compliance and that is the big issue for them.

"How has Tauranga City Council allowed that to happen? They have put people in a position of being unsafe for the last 18 months," he said.

Mr Stewart said it did not make sense.

"Will that mean they will at some stage admit negligence, that they were at fault, because right now there is nothing."

Mr Stewart said he and the other owners were leaving their options open and not ruling out legal action.

Jenny Coffey moved into her home in 2016 and had a full code of compliance.

"I want someone to take responsibility for what has happened."

The council is proposing an independent inquiry.

Ms Coffey wanted a say in who did the inquiry.

"It's our properties and our livelihood that is being dealt with here. This is our money."

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said it was a dreadful position for the homeowners to find themselves in.

He said the council needed to first find out the extent of the problem and the cost to remediate.

Mr Muller said the council should continue looking after the families by providing the cost of rental accommodation which was likely to stop soon.

"These are exceptional circumstances."

'We want to get this resolved as quickly'

The Tauranga City Council said it would make a decision on one of four options at a meeting on 6 June.

Those options are to remediate and charge owners to recover costs once the properties are sold, remediate without a charge, leaving the council to cover all costs, purchase the properties, demolish and sell the land, or issue notices to bring the houses up to code and leave it to the owners.

Chief executive Garry Poole said meetings with individual home owners would take place before a final decision was made on what option.

"It may way be that one size fits all solution does not emerge and there are multiple solutions."

Mr Poole said he wanted a resolution for homeowners soon as possible.

"One of our objectives is to make sure that home owners are not left in this uncertain position for any longer than they need to be.

"We want to get this resolved as quickly as we can for homeowners because elected members and staff are very empathetic to their position," he said.

Mr Poole said the council would look at providing rates relief and while it would stop paying for temporary accommodation from later this week, it would look at individual cases on merit.

He said an independent inquiry would take place and it was expected to return its findings before June's meeting.