Building company fined $64K

Last updated 05:00 18/12/2010

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A Wanaka woman and her company have been fined a total of $64,000 for allowing a building to be used for visitor accommodation when known fire dangers existed.

Fiona Caroline Graham was fined $24,000, and her company, The Wanaka Gym Ltd, was fined $40,000.

Graham must also pay the Queenstown Lakes District Council $9000 in costs.

Judge David Holderness found Graham and the company guilty of a total of 14 charges laid under the Building Act following a six-day hearing that ended in December last year.

The council alleged that Graham had unlawfully allowed the building to be used as visitor accommodation for foreign tourists when known fire dangers existed.

The building had been deemed unsafe for sleeping occupants in the case of fire because cloth was strung along ceilings and fire exits were not accessible.

A bedroom door was also hung unlawfully, so it swung into a corridor rather than into the bedroom, while a fire exit was blocked by a curtain and a column heater.

The Tenby St building was still being used for visitor accommodation even after a "Dangerous Building Notice" had been attached to it.

The notice was removed by Graham.

"This was an act, which I found was wilful, ie, deliberate and intentional, and which involved Dr Graham screwing up the notice in the presence of the council officers before she took it inside the building," Judge Holderness wrote in his decision, released yesterday.

The most serious of the charges were related to the failure of Graham and Wanaka Gym to comply with the "Notice to Fix", served in July 2008.

Graham was denied name suppression. She also applied for a discharge without conviction but was denied.

She also wanted details of her occupation suppressed. She has a PhD in social anthropology from Oxford University with her area of expertise in Japan.

She has worked and trained as a geisha as research in her career and believed that publicity would prevent her from continuing her career or to gain permanent residence in Japan.

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- The Southland Times

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