Publican disputes safety issue

By Peter de Graaf

The operator of a Kaikohe pub ordered to shape up or shut down has disputed the findings of the Fire Service which deemed the building dangerous.

Last week the Far North District Council issued the Kaikohe Hotel with a dangerous building notice, giving publican Neal Summers and building owner Cameron Enterprises 10 days to fix a series of fire safety failings.

If he doesn't meet the December 14 deadline the council can go to court to order them to carry out the work or have the building closed down and boarded up.

Mr Summers, however, disputes the findings of the Fire Service inspector who declared the two-storey kauri building dangerous. Fire protection company Wormald had okayed the sprinkler system just days earlier and he was willing to fix a few minor defects found in an inspection earlier this year.

The council said it did not want to comment on Mr Summers' claim but said it did not take issuing dangerous building notices lightly. However, it was legally obliged to ensure the safety of people living in commercial buildings.

The other problem cited by the council was the lack of a Building Warrant of Fitness, required annually for every commercial building and which had been due in June.

But Mr Summers said he had been placed in a Catch-22 situation. He could not get a Building WOF until he finished work on a series of new apartments, but could not finish the work until he was issued a building consent. The council would not issue a consent without the signature of the building's legal owner, who was dead, or her estate, which is not communicating.

Carrying out the fire safety work required by the council within 10 days was similarly impossible, he said - the work required a building consent which would take up to 20 days to issue.

But Mr Summers said he was not planning to leave Kaikohe or give up his dream of building a retirement village next to the hotel.

He was due to meet the council's in-house lawyer today to request a suspension of building consent so he could finish the apartments and get a Building WOF.

He was also unhappy that a council officer - accompanied by a policeman, a public health officer and a firefighter - had called in to the hotel to issue notices to residents when he was not there.

''They went round knocking on all the doors, handing out notices saying they were going to close the place in 10 days. It scared the hell out of my older tenants,'' Mr Summers said. Staff had also been told to look for new jobs.

Fire safety deficiencies identified by an Auckland-based fire officer last month included problems with the sprinkler system, a lack of early-warning smoke detection systems, and inadequate fire-rated construction. Other concerns relate to a disused part of the building which has had its windows and ceiling removed.


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