Focus on safety
After the wake up call of the World Bar fire last year, fire safety at nightclubs and budget accommodation providers in Queenstown and Wanaka is under the microscope. Debbie Jamieson reports.
When the fire service's new Queenstown-based fire risk manager visited 15 nightclubs last week, they were all found to be in breach of fire safety regulations.
Blocked and cluttered exits were the main issue, Paul Glanville said.
"There's a high number of people here in nightclubs and liquor outlets consuming alcohol. We want to make sure they're looked after."
Glanville has moved from Invercargill to take up the new position, prompted by last year's World Bar fire and the Canterbury earthquakes, which, provided a "shot in the arm" to fire service hierarchy, he said.
"Had World Bar been at a different time of day the outcome could have been quite different. The political ramifications and international profile of Queenstown . . . it could have been quite different."
Although his job is to ultimately incorporate fire investigations alongside his colleague Stu Ide, he has been given a clear six months to get around as many venues and accommodation providers as he can to reduce the fire risk to patrons and the number of false alarms the Queenstown Brigade were required to attend.
Ide said Queenstown had the highest rate of unwarranted false alarms in New Zealand.
About two weeks ago Queenstown firefighters responded to 11 call-outs in a 48 hour period.
"That in itself is an issue. It's putting pressure on local volunteer firefighters to respond and on employers to release volunteers from work," he said.
When Ide first came to Queenstown in 2001 the intention was that he take on a similar fire safety role but the number of investigations precluded that.
He was pleased the new position had been established.
"It gives us an opportunity to make a difference in a short period of time."
After the initial six months it was intended Glanville and Ide would return to splitting their work on fire investigations, community education and compliance in the built environment with Glanville taking on responsibility for Queenstown and Wanaka and Ide for Central Otago and Waitaki. However, they would continue to keep a close eye on compliance from bars and accommodation providers. High staff turnover meant education must be continual, Ide said.
"They can expect a lot more visits . . . It has to be right because we won't get a second chance if something goes wrong."