Confusion over investigation into illegal tenancies at Wellington's 61 Molesworth St

By Frances Cook

The nine-storey building on Molesworth St in Wellington that is due to be demolished. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The nine-storey building on Molesworth St in Wellington that is due to be demolished. Photo / Mark Mitchell

MBIE is adamant that it is investigating the tenancies of families who were living in 61 Molesworth St, after sparking confusion with mixed messages.

The Wellington office block is now condemned after sustaining major damage in the Kaikoura quakes.

There's allegations families were living across four floors of the building, which the building was not designed or zoned for.

Yesterday, Tenancy Compliance and Investigation Manager Paul Coggan released a statement, announcing an investigation into the tenancies.

"Renting out unconsented buildings, or buildings not consented for residential purposes ... raises serious health and safety concerns and is a breach of landlord responsibilities."

But today MBIE's Acting chief executive of building Chris Bunny contradicted that, when he said the building was not MBIE's responsibility.

"In terms of investigations, MBIE has one investigation underway at this point, that being Statistics New Zealand House, down in the Centreport complex.

"We have no other investigations pending at this time. With regards 61 Molesworth St, that building was being occupied in a residential capacity, which was a surprise to many.

"From a legislative point of view that doesn't cause any issues that we've identified thus far. The appropriateness of its habitation is really a matter for Wellington City Council, and the building owner, and the affected occupants."

When contacted for clarification, MBIE's National Compliance and Investigation Manager Steve Watson again repeated that an investigation was already underway.

"Landlords need to ensure they are providing warm, dry, safe, and legal homes to people. We would encourage anyone who was living in 61 Molesworth Street to contact Tenancy Services on 0800 TENANCY to discuss their situation and options with us."

Watson said Bunny's statements were incorrect, as although there is no investigation into structural issues, there is an active investigation into whether the property was unlawfully used for residential purposes.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said the council is also investigating, and charges are likely to be brought against Prime Property Group.

- NZ Herald

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