Safety concerns close pub

By Peter de Graaf

A high court judge has ordered that the Kaikohe Hotel be boarded up and no one but workers allowed inside until it is no longer a danger to staff or patrons.

The order was made by Justice Kit Toogood in the High Court at Auckland on Monday and delivered to the hotel at 11am on Tuesday by police, council officials and in-house lawyer John Verry.

The Advocate understands staff and at least five tenants were originally given until 4pm to leave the premises, which was later extended by police to noon on Wednesday. A copy of the court order and a notice declaring the hotel a dangerous building was stapled to the entrance.

However, publican Neal Summers said he was confident the pub could remain open and issues around the building's Warrant of Fitness could be resolved.

The Far North District Council and Mr Summers have been at loggerheads for years but in late 2012 the building was declared dangerous after a Fire Service inspection found problems with the sprinkler and smoke detection systems. There were also concerns about a disused wing of the building which had no windows or ceiling on its first floor.

Mr Summers was given ten working days to fix the problems or the council would apply for a court order to close the pub. Since then he has removed part of the hotel so the disused wing is now a stand-alone building.

As well as a bar and pokies room, the two-storey building contains accommodation for backpackers and long-term tenants and Mr Summers' apartment.

In his judgment Justice Toogood said the hotel was in a state of disrepair, partial demolition and renovation. It was a fire hazard that posed a significant risk to patrons, staff and tenants.

He ordered that access to the hotel be prevented with locks, hoardings or fences until further order of the court. Only people carrying out council-authorised work to make the hotel comply with the Building Act would be allowed in.

The council and police would make sure anyone in the premises left immediately, ''and by that I mean today,'' the judge said. He gave all parties three days to apply to the court to have the order set aside.

Mr Summers said the council's ''extreme action'' was a serious injustice because he had not been given a summons to Monday's hearing so had no chance to be heard in court. Wormald technicians were working on Tuesday at the hotel, which he said would soon be issued with a building Warrant of Fitness.

Council spokesman Richard Edmondson said Mr Summers and the hotel owner, Cameron Enterprises, were served notices under sections 124 and 125 of  the Building Act on November 29 giving them 10 days to fix fire safety defects and provide a building Warrant of Fitness.

They had failed to do so by the December 14 deadline, leaving the council no option but to apply for a High Court order directing the hotel's immediate evacuation and closure after defects were not fixed.

Mr Edmondson said the council believed it had acted fairly and reasonably towards Mr Summers, who had had ample opportunities to comply with the rules.

Patron Wiremu Hohaia, who said he stopped in at the Kaikohe Hotel for a drink once a week, said the closure was ''a bit sad really''. There were other pubs in town but they weren't the same, he said.

The bar manager was friendly but didn't stand for any nonsense.

''You behave yourself here or you're asked to leave,'' he said.

- Northern Advocate

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