Bella Vista trial: Court told of concerns of lack of retaining walls
Concerns have been raised about the lack of retaining walls in some Bella Vista homes. Photo / file
A former Bella Vista Homes executive said his concerns about the lack of retaining walls around the homes they were building had been fobbed off by the failed development director, who is now facing a protracted legal process.
Bella Vista Homes Limited, The Engineer Limited, their respective directors Danny Cancian and Bruce Cameron, and Mason Darrel Joseph are defending a number of charges in Tauranga District Court.
The charges brought by the Tauranga City Council relate to the defendants who allegedly carried out construction work that did not comply with the building law, specifically a building permit. They refer to 21 houses in different stages of completion in The Lakes that were evacuated in March 2018.
Dean Skipper told the court today at the trial that he first worked as a roofer for Bella Vista Homes in 2017 and that he took over the role of operations manager about 18 months later after former operations manager Ian Minnell left. There were some “inherited” problems.
The Bella Vista subdivision in December 2019 before the houses were removed. Photo / file
When asked by District Attorney Richard Marchant whether Skipper had seen any concerns in his role as operations manager, he said that many of the foundations for the houses they were building were either in the wrong location or at the wrong height, “and they did lasting effect “.
Skipper also confirmed there were concerns about the excavation in some areas and the elevation differences between the driveways between Lakes Boulevard and Aneta Way. “There were some [excavation] Cuts there that were pretty tall, “he said.
Urged by Judge Paul Mabey QC how problematic this was, Skipper said it was a safety issue and it usually needs to be addressed in the form of a retaining wall “so it doesn’t collapse or pose a problem”. .
The now empty place where Bella Vista homes were built on the lakes. Photo / file
“Because the kind of ground up there when it rains turns to mud and runs away, runs away. It had the potential to collapse.”
Skipper said he told Cancian of his worries, but Bella Vista didn’t care.
“We talked about it and I wanted to do it [set up a retaining wall] but was instructed differently. “
On the subject of matching items
Cancian’s focus was on building the houses, not retaining walls, he said.
Skipper said the problems were first revealed to him on his second day as operations manager when he received a call to meet a local council building inspector “because one of the foundations was in the wrong place”.
“I measured it and it was. From there I realized there were some others too … I went back and talked to Danny about it and said what do we do now?” But he hired me to do my job and just keep going. “
It had the potential to collapse.
Skipper said it likely would have cost $ 40,000 to $ 50,000 to rip out the wrong foundations and instead worked with the council on a motion to change the consent, which was passed.
He told the court that in Bella Vista Homes’ contracts with customers, the issue of retaining walls was in the “owner’s care”. However, upon renewed pressure from Judge Mabey, Skipper said it was unusual to build houses rather than the retaining walls as part of the same project.
Tauranga’s courthouse, where five parties are charged with the failed development of Bella Vista. Photo / file
The court heard that the worrying cut was up to 5.5 meters high and stretched about 70 meters between Lakes Boulevard and Aneta Way.
When asked who was in control of Bella Vista Homes, Skipper said Cancian was “Danny was the one who signed Jobs”.
“It was a sales thing for him. When the customers were there, he said, ‘I’ll sign the job, I’ll oversee the jobs’.”
Cancian’s defense attorney Bill Nabney questioned Skipper where the cut was 5.5 m and asked him to point the location on a map, but he couldn’t.
“Isn’t it true that the highest point is actually 3 m and not 5.5 m and you are wrong?” Said Nabney.
Skipper replied, “I remember it was definitely higher. I remember 5m.”
Skipper left Bella Vista Homes around October or November of that year with his roofing company still owing $ 40,000.
The trial originally started on March 17, but was suspended during the Covid-19 lockdown. The process should take five weeks. It started again on Monday and is expected to last at least two more weeks.
The process continues.