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Residents of fire risk Auckland high-rise face eviction within days: 'we can’t go back in’

Author
Jaime Lyth,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Apr 2024, 2:07pm
Residents outside the City Garden Apartments on Albert Street central Auckland under an Auckland Council Dangerous Building Notice
Residents outside the City Garden Apartments on Albert Street central Auckland under an Auckland Council Dangerous Building Notice

Residents of fire risk Auckland high-rise face eviction within days: 'we can’t go back in’

Author
Jaime Lyth,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Apr 2024, 2:07pm

An Auckland apartment tower is so dangerous that “injury or death” is likely if it catches fire.

City Garden Apartments residents are fuming they may have to evacuate within days, after years of “significant” safety issues in the building.

Auckland Council has issued a ‘Dangerous Building Notice’ (DBN) which is set to be reviewed tomorrow, and if it’s found to be unsafe, residents will be made to evacuate by Monday.

“We were all given a letter that council will be in at 10am tomorrow to see if they have remedied the issues with the fire safety.

“If not they will deem that the building’s not safe to be in, and at 10am we find out whether we have to move or not, we’ve been given two days,” one resident said.

Apartment owners and tenants told the Herald they were dismayed at the lack of transparency from the building owners, managers and body corporate, as it’s not the first time issues have been identified.

In 2018, the Herald reported an apartment owner was “disgusted” to learn that the building had exterior aluminium composite cladding like the Grenfell Tower in London, where a fire killed more than 70 people.

Six years later, nine notices are taped to the front of the building with extensive warnings of fire safety risks and the dangerous cladding remains.

“Whether or not the fire alarm goes off, that means nothing to me because we all watched the Grenfell building with the same cladding on, go up in minutes,” a resident told the Herald.

Contractors entering the City Garden Apartments on Albert Street to carry out remedial work in accordance with an Auckland Council Dangerous Building Notice. Photo / Jaime LythContractors entering the City Garden Apartments on Albert Street to carry out remedial work in accordance with an Auckland Council Dangerous Building Notice. Photo / Jaime Lyth 

General view of City Garden Apartments, Albert Street, Auckland City. 17th April 2024, New Zealand Herald photograph by Sylvie WhinrayGeneral view of City Garden Apartments, Albert Street, Auckland City. 17th April 2024, New Zealand Herald photograph by Sylvie Whinray

“The building is dangerous... in the event of fire, injury or death to any persons in the building or to persons on other property is likely,” one notice from FENZ states.

The apartment has not had a Building Warrant of Fitness since 2017 and fire defects identified in a 2021 report have not been remedied, including the cladding which has a “risk of uncontrolled fire spreading rapidly” according to council documents.

Auckland Council field surveying manager Jeff Fahrensohn said the DBN was issued after visits by council building inspectors and Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) which found significant defects with the fire safety systems.

“While measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of residents in the interim, we advised residents and the body corporate on Friday 12 April that under the conditions of the notice they must vacate the building by 12pm on Monday 22 April 2024 if the safety issues have not been adequately resolved by then,” Fahrensohn said.

Today, several masked tradespeople were at the 16-storey tower on 76 Albert St.

“We understand this notice was distressing for residents, however, our priority is to keep building occupants safe.

“We reiterate the importance of building owners and body corporates inspecting and maintaining their building safety systems,” Fahrensohn said.

Cadogan, which provide building and facility management for City Garden Apartments, have been approached for comment and refused to tell the Herald who the building manager was currently.

Body Corporate manager Crockers’ spokesperson told the Herald it was not their “prerogative” to answer who was leading the body corporate for the building, and provided a statement over email instead.

“Our role is to advise the Body Corporate committee of their legal obligations under the Unit Titles Act and facilitate discussions with external providers where appropriate, however, ultimately the authority to make decisions on behalf of the Body Corporate sits with the committee.”

Residents in limbo 

Residents told the Herald that they understand the owners and building managers are trying to get the building up to scratch by tomorrow so they don’t get kicked out. 

One resident told the Herald he had no idea where he would live if the building was deemed unsafe and hadn’t been advised whether his accommodation would be paid for or not. 

“We might have to [leave], it depends on the checking. 

“Theres a final check tomorrow, if they don’t qualify, we will [have to] leave.” 

An online floor plan shows there are 185 apartments in the high-rise. 

Another resident told the Herald that fire alarms go off so often in the building that no one responds to them anymore. 

“I imagine the fire department finally put their foot down... and when they did come they found that it hadn’t been [inspected] since 2017. 

“We have no idea where we are going to move to. 

“We’re on the edge of not knowing, half of us haven’t even made arrangements because we don’t know what is happening.” 

The resident currently pays $620 a week for a two-bedroom rental apartment in the tower. 

“We’re not allowed in to take anything, unless we can move a whole flat, and find a new flat, and move in two days. 

“We can’t go back in, we’re basically walking out with a bag.” 

Contractors are at City Garden Apartments today - the building will be inspected tomorrow at 10am to see if remedial work has been carried out. Photo / Jaime LythContractors are at City Garden Apartments today - the building will be inspected tomorrow at 10am to see if remedial work has been carried out. Photo / Jaime Lyth 

City Garden Apartments was one of 25 buildings that Auckland Council identified with exterior aluminium composite cladding like the Grenfell Tower in London, where a fire in 2017 killed more than 70 people. 

Ian McCormick , council’s building consents general manager, assured those living and working in the sites were safe at the time. 

He said the flammable polyethylene cores in their claddings are not necessarily dangerous because they have other means of fire protection. 

Jaime Lyth is a multimedia journalist for the New Zealand Herald, focusing on crime and breaking news. 

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here. 

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