After six years of major repair works, residents are finally starting to return to apartment block Victopia in central Auckland.

The high rise tower, on the corner of Nelson Street and Victoria Street West, is still covered from top to bottom in white construction wrap, but inside, some are moving into the lower levels.

That includes Jesse Smith, who decided to buy a unit during the remediation.

He only has limited access to his apartment, with the balcony inaccessible while work continues.

“It’s still under wraps,” he says, “so for me it’s just a place to sleep at the moment.”

“It’s probably the largest, if not one of the largest remediation projects in New Zealand,” says Dariusz Koper, chair of the block’s body corporate.

Work started in 2018, after investigations six years earlier found the Victopia building had a faulty design, with leaks and cracks in cladding.

The defects were so serious,a loose panel fell off onto the street below in 2019, closing the entire city block, not long after the remediation project started.

“I would hope that there aren’t any new buildings being built like that any more,” says property law expert Joanna Pidgeon. “We’ve certainly seen a trend away from people committing to building bigger buildings.”

Victopia residents won a $53m judgement against a range of parties responsible for designing and building the tower, including Brookfield Multiplex Constructions (NZ).

But the company’s since gone into liquidation and repair costs have blown out, leaving apartment owners to pick up the bill.

They’ve had two rounds of extra levies so far, some of up to around $130,000.

“Many of them really struggled, to pay the levies, but also fund alternative accommodation,” says Koper. “Many owners have sold, because they just couldn’t raise the funds and they have sold for very little money.”

“It’s been really unfortunate for most of the owners in here,” says Smith. “I guess i’m one of the fortunate ones who bought during it, but yeah it’s pretty rough.”

And it’s not over yet.

Victopia owners are now taking a class action against the Australian insurers of the now liquidated construction firm, with a hearing due to take place later this year.

It’s expected all 14 residential floors of the building will be ready by December.

“They’re handing back one floor every few weeks, so it’s slowly getting busier,” says Smith. “The light’s at the end of the tunnel for most people.”

He’s one of around 200 owners hoping the construction woes remain a thing of the past.