Pair plan to sue city council over hotel delays

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 24/12/2013
Simon and James Cavanagh
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
Simon and James Cavanagh sit in the bistro of the refurbished Land’s End Boutique Hotel, but a plague of problems has meant the pair have had to temporarily shut the facility.

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A Bluff couple plan to sue the Invercargill City Council for up to $130,000.

They say the council has ruined their businesses reputation and caused them to lose out on customers in the busiest season of the year.

James and Simon Cavanagh opened a new restaurant in Land's End Boutique Hotel at Bluff about two weeks ago and were planning to open the hotel last week.

But a run of problems with the Invercargill City Council have forced them to temporarily shut their new business and cancel bookings, they said.

The problems were also hindering the final sale of the property to the pair, who had already invested $30,000 into it, James Cavanagh said.

Invercargill City Council director of environmental and planning services, Pamela Gare, said the pair elected to close the restaurant themselves and just needed to complete three consents before the council could sign the building off.

The consents dated back to 2001, 2002 and 2004, she said.

James Cavanagh said he and his partner had no option but to seek legal advice as the council were now causing them to lose business.

He could not understand how the council had allowed the previous business to operate for the past 15 years without the consents, but was now making such an issue about it.

Numerous inspectors had been out to view the building in recent weeks, each pointing out new issues the couple needed to address before they could sign off on the building, he claimed.

"It's OK for us to jump through all the hoops, it's frustrating that they are not playing ball back."

He wanted a comprehensive list of the work required so the building could be signed off and the sale could go through "and we can bring more business to the town", he said.

Mr Cavanagh said the council should have addressed the problems with the hotel's owners.

While they were aware of the consent issues, it was the fact the council had taken six weeks to address them and tell them exactly what needed to be done that was frustrating, he said.

"Where we stand is the council has been holding it up and we are losing thousands of dollars in work and income."

City council building regulation services manager Simon Tonkin said the pair had been doing work on top of work the previous owners were doing to make the building compliant, and their new renovations were not complying with the building code. The council was not obliged to give them a list of things they had to do, but had done so to make the process easier.

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However, each time the council visited the building the pair had done more work, which presented more compliance issues, Mr Tonkin said.

The council issued a certificate of public use for the restaurant and the hotel to the pair yesterday and the council was working with them to address the problems.

"It's a complex issue."

City council chief executive Richard King said the situation showed that people should always get a land information memorandum before buying a building because it highlights all the issues they may face.

The owners had "most certainly jumped the gun" by doing improvements to the building before they had actually bought it and the council was working with the previous owners to fix the issues the building had.

"It's just common sense."

Mr King said he was "not worried at all" about the threat of legal action.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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