Fire safety rules a load of crepe

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/07/2014
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They're too strict. Building a wall to protect an empty section is ridiculous.

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A New Plymouth crepe and pancake manufacturer's expansion has left its owners with an extra $200,000 to pay to protect the neighbouring property - a bare strip of land - from fire.

Now Van Dyck Fine Foods owner Marcel Naenen is wondering if Taranaki is littered with buildings that have never expanded and are therefore getting away with retaining obsolete fire safety systems.

The New Plymouth District Council had demanded the owners of the factory, which was built in 1999, upgrade its entire fire safety system and build a 30-metre-long, 6m-high wall to protect a 20m wide strip of land with a driveway running down it, that Naenen said was used once a month.

"What if I have a factory for 50 years and I have 100 people employed but I never expand," he said.

The council's building manager, Peter Scantlebury, said if a factory had not chosen to expand, its original fire safety system was likely to remain unchanged and the council would only consider re-evaluating a factory's fire systems if a consent application was lodged.

Naenen said that in order to get the consent to expand the factory, which has 18 staff, a 70-page fire safety design report was compiled by fire protection engineer Paul Clements, at a cost of $40,000. The report suggested the upgrade and wall but did not demand it, he said.

The expansion had already cost the business $1.45 million but the construction of a wall and fire system upgrade would cost about $200,000 extra.

Scantlebury said the purpose of the proposed wall was to protect the factory's neighbours and their property from the radiation of a fire in the factory.

But Naenen said the extension had been built from a fire retardant material imported from Australia and this had not been taken into consideration by the council.

He said if the owner of the bare strip of land, which was about 20m wide, wanted to build on the property, he would be happy to construct the protective wall.

Scantlebury said regulations treated other property as having the right to build at any time. Therefore the first building near the boundary - Naenen's factory - had to build as if another building was already there.

The council had not visited the factory site, but had used geo spatial aerial mapping to determine design requirements for the wall. The council had peer-reviewed the fire safety report by Clements, he said.

"The feedback from that peer review was relayed to Clements Consultants, who responded by adjusting their report to reflect the reviewing recommendations.

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"Clements Consultants could have challenged any of the peer reviewer's recommendations but chose not to, presumably because they accepted the findings of the peer review."

- Taranaki Daily News

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