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Owners of apartment tower the Nautilus in Auckland have won $25.07 million, the largest amount awarded to leaky building owners in New Zealand.

The building was certified by Rodney District Council but after territorial authorities in the region were merged into the supercity, Auckland Council took on all the responsibilities of the councils it absorbed. The council was deemed liable in place of the now defunct Rodney District Council, which issued code compliance certificates for the building based on statements provided by the head contractor, Australian-based Brookfield Multiplex, which is now in liquidation.

Problems at Nautilus were far more than simply weathertightness issues because the building was defective, according to Rainey Law's Tim Rainey, one of the lawyers who acted for the owners. The block had many faults and he hopes repairs might begin later this year.

The body corporate's successful action was against the council, the builder, Walker Architects, Downer EDI Works, Facade Technologies, and Charles Norager & Sons. Following a six-week trial in late 2014, High Court judge Justice Murray Gilbert ordered the council to pay compensation to owners with interests in the 150-unit building, which has been plagued by a number of construction defects since its completion in June 2004.

The court found RDC was aware that Brookfield had prevented independent monitoring of the construction, and had then developed the statements without suitable third-party input, falsely claiming their standards complied with relevant Building Code requirements.

The council was found to be responsible for paying the entire amount, resulting in ratepayers having to shoulder the burden. The council could then seek to recover part of that money back from the other parties. Some of the defendants including Brookfield Multiplex Constructions (NZ), Walker Architects and Facade Technologies were in liquidation so no money could be claimed from them.

Several weeks after the judgement, the Auckland Council agreed to pay most of a $25.07 million award against the council and other parties. Mr Rainey claims he offered a settlement of $15.07 million on behalf of the owners before the six-week trial. But he said the council did not respond.

Trevor Corin, chairman of Nautilus's body corporate and the settlement committee, said owners endured six years of hardship after discovering issues in 2009 and many like him were retired or semi-retired.

Sources: | TVNZ

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