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Fate of ‘dangerous’ high-rise apartment block decided by Auckland Council

Author
Cherie Howie,
Publish Date
Fri, 19 Apr 2024, 6:12pm

Fate of ‘dangerous’ high-rise apartment block decided by Auckland Council

Author
Cherie Howie,
Publish Date
Fri, 19 Apr 2024, 6:12pm

The fate of a high-rise downtown apartment block deemed unsafe - with residents facing having to leave by Monday afternoon - has been decided by Auckland Council today. 

City Garden Apartments tower in central Auckland was issued a Dangerous Building Notice [DBN] on Wednesday. 

Residents in the 16-storey, 199-apartment tower at 76 Albert St were told they had to vacate the building by noon Monday if safety issues hadn’t been resolved. 

Ian McCormick, the council’s building consents manager, told reporters this afternoon 15 building inspectors and Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz) were onsite and “based on our observations this morning we believe the building to no longer be dangerous”. 

He said they were still waiting on certification to say the building is no longer dangerous, which they are expecting later today. 

Battle lines were drawn yesterday after the lawyer for the apartment’s body corporate, Tim Rainey, applied to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to have the dangerous building notice suspended. 

The ministry hadn’t yet decided whether a determination would be made, with a decision required within 10 days under The Building Act, a ministry spokeswoman said. 

The application for a determination put on hold the evacuation order, she said. 

“When a determination is being considered, any decision or exercise of a power by council is suspended, but only in relation to the matter being determined, unless the chief executive directs otherwise. 

“MBIE may make a direction when the matters involve life-safety. In some circumstances council or another party will request MBIE make that direction.” 

Contractors enter City Garden Apartments in central Auckland yesterday to carry out remedial work, after Auckland Council issued a Dangerous Building Notice. Photo / Jaime Lyth

Contractors enter City Garden Apartments in central Auckland yesterday to carry out remedial work, after Auckland Council issued a Dangerous Building Notice. Photo / Jaime Lyth 

More information would be provided today, and that would be reviewed “before making a decision about the suspension of council powers”. 

The DBN was issued after both council building inspectors and Fire and Emergency New Zealand [FENZ] found significant defects with fire safety systems in the building, Auckland Council field surveying manager Jeff Fahrensohn said on Wednesday. 

Measures had been put in place to ensure residents’ safety in the meantime, Fahrensohn said. 

The building was to be reinspected again today. 

About 90 per cent of the problems had been addressed and there was a good chance the building would pass today’s inspection, Auckland Council building control manager Ian McCormick told Newstalk ZB’s Heather du Plessis-Allan yesterday. 

He went to the ministry because the tower didn’t meet the definition of a dangerous building, Rainey said. 

“There remains a possibility that if there was an additional real risk to the safety of the occupants, that could prompt a further evacuation notice from the council. 

“But the advice I have from our fire experts is that all of the concerns have now been addressed and the building is safe to be occupied.” 

Barrister Tim Rainey is acting for City Garden Apartments' body corporate after the Auckland apartment tower was issued with a Dangerous Building Notice by Auckland Council.

Barrister Tim Rainey is acting for City Garden Apartments' body corporate after the Auckland apartment tower was issued with a Dangerous Building Notice by Auckland Council. 

It was also an “impossible ask” to evacuate the building’s residents by Monday, Rainey said. 

“It takes on average one to three hours via a goods lift to move the contents of one apartment in or out. Under no circumstances do we have enough hours in the day to evacuate all 199 apartments in the building by Monday. 

“The notice was … always unreasonable and the deadlines were unrealistic. But the council was prompted to issue that notice because of immediate issues around the maintenance of the fire alarm and the fire sprinkler systems within the building.” 

The handle of a fire door had been vandalised and that was discovered during a fire alarm within the building last week, he said. 

A connection between the fire alarm system and FENZ had also been disconnected by a contractor who’d run a fire alarm test but not reconnected the system. 

That was also discovered last week as a result of an issue with a sprinkler, which was broken. It should’ve resulted in the fire service being alerted but that didn’t happen. 

“These are the sort of mistakes that happen in a large building like this.” 

Residents outside City Garden Apartments in Auckland after a  Dangerous Building Notice was issued by Auckland Council on Wednesday. Photo / Jaime Lyth

Residents outside City Garden Apartments in Auckland after a Dangerous Building Notice was issued by Auckland Council on Wednesday. Photo / Jaime Lyth 

Meanwhile, the building’s management said they were short more than $30 million needed for long-term fixes to some fire hazards and re-cladding, RNZ reported last night. 

The building hasn’t had a warrant of fitness since 2017 and the council has issued several notices to fix and infringement fines. 

Yesterday apartment owners 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. 

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

“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. 

The Grenfell Tower fire in London seven years ago claimed 70 lives.

The Grenfell Tower fire in London seven years ago claimed 70 lives. 

The apartments had previously been subject to a resident’s complaint about their exterior aluminium cladding, which was the same as that used on Grenfell Tower in London, where a fire in 2017 killed more than 70 people. 

He was “disgusted” the cladding hadn’t urgently been removed, apartment owner Daniel Young said in 2018. 

At the time McCormick, as the council’s building consents general manager, assured those living and working in the 25 Auckland buildings found to have exterior aluminium composite cladding that they were safe. 

The flammable polyethylene cores in their claddings were not necessarily dangerous because they had other means of fire protection, McCormick said. 

This story was originally published on the Herald, here

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