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Tauranga City Council releases independent report by Hon. Paul Heath QC

Video summary of Hon Paul Heath QC's report
Transcript of video summary

Tauranga City Council has released in full the independent report by former High Court Judge Hon Paul Heath QC that looks into Council’s role in the Bella Vista Homes development on Lakes Boulevard and Aneta Way.

In his report, Mr Heath notes that while Council dealt adequately with resource consent applications, he believes it failed in other areas including monitoring and inspections.

Mr Heath presented the report to Council this afternoon via video link from Singapore. He encouraged Council to move quickly to find a resolution for homeowners.

“They [the homeowners] are entirely innocent. They bought properties in good faith, and had an expectation that the dwellings to be erected on them would be built to the standards required by the Building Code and, immediately upon completion, be habitable.”

“There is a need for some form of inquiry or investigation to ascertain why the Council failed to perform adequately relevant regulatory functions,” he says.

The recently retired Judge has warned against a “witch-hunt” but says it is important that an investigation looks at “what lessons can be learnt from the failures to minimise the risk of something like this happening again.”

“I cannot emphasise enough that my findings that the Council did not perform its resource consent and Building Act regulatory functions adequately do not mean that the Council is necessarily legally liable to homeowners who have suffered loss.”

Chief Executive Garry Poole says Council acknowledges the report and will now assess the recommendations.

“The report highlights areas where Mr Heath says we should have done better.

“We acknowledge the findings of Mr Heath QC. He has had an opportunity to look thoroughly at what Council did or did not do.

“He has encouraged Council to look at why, and this is something we will go away and consider further.”
Council has voted today to acquire the 21 properties and enter into negotiations with homeowners towards full and final settlement.

A major issue for the development is the lack of retaining walls, which Mr Heath says should have been considered further by Council. However, he notes that there is confusion around the sequencing of work, and how Council could have approached this issue.

The presentation of Mr Heath’s report comes almost three months after 13 homes were evacuated at the Bella Vista development.

In February, Council launched a comprehensive review of the development, which included reports from experts in geotechnical, structural, and building compliance.

In early March, 13 families were evacuated from their homes ahead of the expected Cyclone Hola.

Based on the findings of the expert reports, in April Council deemed that all 21 properties were dangerous and/or affected under the Building Act 2004. Following further testing, three had their notices withdrawn, and could be reoccupied.

The former High Court Judge noted that in respect of the dangerous and/or affected notices, Council’s actions were “appropriate” in a situation “in which it had received advice that those entering the buildings could be at risk of injury or death.” 

Mr Heath’s engagement with Council ends today.

A copy of Mr Heath’s report can be found at the following link: http://econtent.tauranga.govt.nz/data/bigfiles/committee_meetings/2018/June/paulheathreport_6june2018.pdf


ENDS

Editor’s note:
In his summary, Mr Heath found that:

  • Council dealt adequately with the resource consent applications made in respect of the Bella Vista subdivision.
  • Council did not perform monitoring and enforcement functions adequately in relation to geotechnical aspects of the intended construction works.
  • Council performed building consent functions adequately for those issued before 23 December 2016 but failed to make appropriate inquiries in respect of those granted on or after that date.
  • Council did not perform its Building Act inspection functions adequately, in respect of both geotechnical and structural considerations.
  • Council ought not to have issued code compliance certificates for 297 and 311 Lakes Boulevard, and 2 and 4 Aneta Way.
  • It was appropriate for the Council, on 16 April 2018, to declare all buildings in the Bella Vista subdivision either ‘dangerous’ or ‘affected’ on the basis of the professional advice it received.
Posted: Jun 6, 2018,

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