Former James Hardie manager says he wouldn't buy a house with Harditex

Logan Church
Source: 1News

A former James Hardie manager says he would not have bought a house with the cladding his company sold.

His testimony comes as the international building giant fights a $220 million class action by more than 1000 homeowners, who accuse the company of knowingly selling defective cladding known as Harditex.

They say the cladding, sold as a system, leaked, and in some cases cost homeowners hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the damage.

James Hardie's lawyers have instead blamed builders, saying some of the leaky homes were "badly built".

Harditex is no longer on the market.

Bradley Bridges joined the company in 1989 and worked in a variety of management roles in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. He left in 2002.

For some of that time he was part of the company's Global Management Team (GMT), which met once a month.

Former James Hardie manager, Bradley Bridges.

It consisted of some of the most "senior members" of the international group, he told the court.

Mr Bridges said the development of fibre cement products was essential for the business, and the company was heavily focussed on sales growth.

Harditex was created in response to seeing a "growth opportunity for the New Zealand fibre cement market".

While other products were on the market, he said the "real profits" were from Harditex - it was pitched as being a "great local New Zealand sales opportunity".

But during his time on the GMT, he said the team became aware of leaky building issues in New Zealand and of potential problems with Harditex.

Bridges said he was concerned about its testing and having to be installed to "exacting standards" otherwise there would be potential for "water ingress and potential failure".

Auckland High Court (file).

"I remember thinking I would not buy a house built with that system," he said.

"My impression at the time was that fibre cement was growing in popularity and profits were increasing.

"When reports of issues with fibre cement products in the New Zealand market filtered through to the GMT, they were not taken as seriously as required at the start - they were not taken as seriously as they should have been, and we did not take steps to address them."

He said New Zealand was not a focus when there were "massive market penetration opportunities in the United States".

"I knew there was an improvement project taken place to address concerns about Harditex."

During cross examination, James Hardie's lawyer confirmed Bridges was not involved with the development or sales of Harditex.

The trial at the High Court in Auckland continues.