'Swinging' backpackers flood businesses

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2014

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A "swinging" leaving do left businesses in Queenstown flooded or closed and owners facing a six-figure bill on Valentines Day - one of the busiest resort retail days.

Businesses off Searle Ln were flooded about 4.15am yesterday when a sprinkler system in Nomads backpackers was broken, flooding the budget hostel, Devil Burger, Cup & Cake, Below Zero Ice Bar and Cowboys bar.

Staff were busy cleaning for most of Valentines Day, one of the busiest retail days of the year in Queenstown, and dealing with electricians, carpet cleaners and insurance assessors.

Senior Constable Chris Blackford, of Queenstown, said a 25-year-old man and 23-year-old woman, both British, were arrested and charged with wilful damage.

They arrived back at Nomads about 4am after their last night out in Queenstown before a scheduled flight to Australia.

"They started to dance on tables and whilst on the tables it's alleged they swung off the sprinkler system pipe, which broke."

The pipe was pulled down and water started gushing out, flooding the first floor, ground level and neighbouring downstairs properties causing significant damage, he said.

"The potential for a six-figure sum is not unrealistic."

Cup & Cake owner Jaimie Stodler said she arrived at 5am to find the entire shop floor flooded, the ceilings pouring with water and electricity out.

Valentines Day was the gourmet sweet store's busiest retail day and the revenue was roughly enough to cover a couple of month's rent, she said.

The store was closed yesterday.

"They think I might have to replace the ceilings. It's really really bad, it's really stupid. "

Devil Burger manager Craig Robinson said the business probably did not lose any equipment and staff aimed to open in time for the weekend. It was inconvenienced because preparations for the Devil Burger mobile van at the Gibbston Valley concert today were delayed

Nomads general manager Andre Broughton said the two guests thought they were Olympic gymnasts.

One started to swing from the sprinkler system in the kitchen then the other guest joined in and the pipe broke, he said.

The 383-bed hostel was fully booked, the building was evacuated and the common area, kitchen, hallways and some bedroom entranceways flooded.

Staff weighed in from the early hours for the clean-up and commercial cleaners were called in on Friday morning. "She was like a lake. The assessors are on their way. It'll be at least a six-figure insurance bill."

The couple paid a discounted rate at the hostel in exchange for cleaning. They returned yesterday to collect belongings, apologised and were sent on their way, Mr Broughton said.

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It is not clear yet whether the repair bill is entirely covered by insurance or whether the couple, if convicted, could be liable for costs, or a portion of the costs.

Below Zero Ice bar manager Philip Mestor said water damaged the main ice bar, sculptures and the reception area but he aimed to open as soon as possible.

Valentines weekend was one of the busiest of the year after New Year, he said. "The two main sculptures have to be re-built. We have to get the ice shipped down from Auckland or Christchurch and the carver down."

Police imposed bail conditions on the couple that included surrendering their passports. They had planned to leave New Zealand for Australia on Friday but were bailed to a appear before a registrar in Queenstown District Court on Monday.

A Fire Service spokesman said volunteers shut off the sprinkler system.

- The Southland Times

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