Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

Balconies at nine student apartments closed amid safety fears

Balconies at nine student apartments have been closed amid safety fears after an accident that injured 18 people in Dunedin.

Second year university student Bailley Unahi, 19, suffered multiple fractures and a broken back following the incident on March 4 where a packed balcony collapsed at a block of flats on Castle St during a gig by Six60.

While two separate investigations have been launched, the property manager for the flats said the balconies had now been blocked off to residents and the structures will be strengthened to make them safer.

"We have put signs up in the windows and fenced off the doors to the balconies," Matt Cutler from Cutler Limited said.

"Everything has been sealed off until further notice.


"We want to make sure all nine properties are as safe as they can be. The balconies were up to the code at the time they were built but as a precaution the structures will now be strengthened or altered."

Investigations are ongoing by Dunedin City Council and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Simon Pickford, the council's general manager of services and development, said a draft report had already been filed by an independent engineer. Initial findings indicated the balcony had been 100 per cent overloaded at one end with 16-17 people on it at the time of the incident.

"This led to it failing at that end which in turn led to the collapse," he said.

Pickford said the council only found out about the concert at the last minute but would have recommended it did not go ahead for safety reasons.

"It was held on private property so nothing much could be done to stop it," he said. "We will be having a debriefing for the university and emergency services next month and discuss how to get a safety message across to students."

Stephen Unahi, a relative of Bailley's, from Winton, said she was recovering well at Burwood Hospital in Christchurch where she is expected to remain for up to three months.

The family now hoped she would walk again as surgery had gone better than expected.
"She is in pretty good spirits but she needs time to heal," Unahi said.

Unahi applauded the balcony closures and hoped nothing like this would occur in the future. He said the family was also overwhelmed by donations to Bailley's Givealittle page which now total more than $47,000.

A spokesman for Six60 said the band has been unable to visit Bailley in hospital yet, but have been in regular contact with her and have also donated to her Givealittle page.

Housing Minister Nick Smith expects to receive a preliminary report on the balcony
collapse by the end of the month.

At this stage this incident is not considered a criminal matter, a police spokesman said.

"But police will maintain an open mind and continue to work collaboratively with other agencies."

- Herald on Sunday

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