7 Jun 2018

'Small victory' in long battle - Bella Vista residents

5:33 am on 7 June 2018

Residents of the botched Bella Vista development have compared losing their homes to a funeral of a loved one.

Defunct Tauranga housing development Bella Vista Housing Development.

Defunct Tauranga housing development Bella Vista Housing Development. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

The Tauranga City Council has opted to buy the 21 condemned properties after signing off on shoddy work that left the buildings too dangerous to live in.

It will demolish them before selling off the land but residents haven't been told how long that will take or when they can expect to see the compensation.

The residents say the council's decision is a small victory in a long battle.

One resident, Lee Konowe, said the homeowners were muted when the council delivered the announcement due to gaps in the information.

"What we don't have is: a timeline, a date, quantum, a formula for how we arrive at the value of those properties," he said.

Mr Konowe said the meeting went as far as it could but didn't resolve for homeowners when they would be able to buy a new house.

The residents had committed to that option but it was a painful one, he said.

"It's still a very emotional issue. The home we designed, and sheparded through the last two years, is now going to be ripped apart," he said. "That's hurtful."

Lee Konowe.

Lee Konowe. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Mr Konowe and another family had filed proceedings against the council for their role in the shoddy work.

He is yet to decide whether he will retract them.

Residents Degen Prodger and Jenny Coffey were relieved at the council's decision and thanked the community for backing the homeowners.

"It's great to hear that it was a unanimous decision, because that means [the council] heard us," Mr Prodger said.

Ms Coffey said she was "humbled" by the wider community support.

From left: Chloe Stewart, Andre Stewart, Damian Coffey, Jenny Coffey, Degen Prodger and Tony Mann.

From left: Chloe Stewart, Andre Stewart, Damian Coffey, Jenny Coffey, Degen Prodger and Tony Mann. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Earlier in the day, the residents had made impassioned pleas to the council to buy the properties off them for their market value before the defects were found.

Andre Stewart said the proceedings left the group raw.

"We walked away from there heartbroken for each other," he said.

"But we stuck together throughout this process and we walk away with a small victory tonight."

The council also released details of an independent investigation into its responsibilities and possible failings led by former High Court Judge Paul Heath QC.

The report found the council had dealt adequately with resource consents but failed in areas such as monitoring and inspections.

It did not deal with issues of liability but Mr Heath said another independent investigation to determine that was critical.

That was cold comfort to Mr Konowe.

"I don't think he got to the issue of liability sufficiently," he said. "That needs to be considered first."

The council's chief executive Gary Poole agreed that work was not carried out adequately.

Mr Poole "respects" that Mr Heath had called for an investigation to make sure it did not happen again and the council would seriously consider further investigation into liability.

The council will move as quickly as possible to resolve the issue with the homeowners, he said.

The financial cost of the option to buy and demolish the homes is yet to be assessed.

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