TAURANGA CITY COUNCIL’S FAILINGS REVEALED
An MBIE investigation into the Bella Vista saga has revealed that Tauranga City Council failed to meet its own building control processes
After reaching a settlement on purchasing the Bella Vista development from homeowners in November 2018, Tauranga City Council is now in the process of repairing, relocating, salvaging, demolishing or remediating the houses.
The situation is the result of a failure in the Council’s building control system, which led MBIE to conduct a review to assess why the failure occurred and identify methods to avoid similar failures going forward.
The review concluded that there were multiple reasons for the failure:
- Management intervened in and subverted normal council processes, which was in part due to inappropriate pressure from the developer.
- The Bella Vista development only had a single point of contact at the council, meaning the escalation of concerns did not occur as they should.
- The Council did not enter conditions on building consents, or follow through on the need for third-party verification of compliance.
- The Council did not manage any delineations from the building consents in accordance with correct procedure once work was under way.
- The Council allowed building work to go ahead after earlier failed inspections had not been fully resolved, as well as not stopping building work when critical documents such as ‘producer statements’ for third-party inspections were not supplied.
- The Council did not utilise its enforcement powers to stop non-compliant building work when it was identified.
- The Council failed to maintain proper records of its decisions and reasons for coming to those decisions.
MBIE specified actions for the Council to undertake to combat these issues, including:
- Revising its policies and procedures, including its enforcement strategy and critical document process.
- Ensuring that staff can carry out their obligations in accepting consent applications and understand the distinction between minor variations and amendments to building consents, inspections and enforcement.
- Submission of updated policies and procedures to MBIE within two months of receipt of this report.
MBIE will check in on the Council within six months and ask it to provide an update on progress within 12 months. Other councils and industry associations will be made aware of the review findings.
Looking beyond Bella Vista
As part of its review, MBIE also looked at other Tauranga sites under construction or developed at a similar time to Bella Vista.
This was undertaken to understand whether the contributing factors evident in the Bella Vista development were present elsewhere and reflected systematic issues within the Council.
MBIE did not find any such evidence at the other sites. As a result, MBIE considered the extent to which the Council had failed to perform “to be an isolated incident”.