Tasman District Council recently successfully prosecuted a commercial building owner for its non-compliance with a notice to fix and offences to the building warrant of fitness regime. Tasman Property Holdings Ltd (TPHL) who own 400 High Street, Motueka were issued a notice to fix when it failed to supply council with the annual building warrant of fitness for the second year running.  

In a follow-up inspection council found several of the buildings specified systems, including the sprinkler system, were not in full working order and putting all the tenants at risk if a fire or related event occurred.  The owner and council had to take immediate action to notify the nine building tenants of the situation and that they should be vigilant. 

Subsequent to this incident, council found that the building warrant of fitness was overdue and issued a number of notices to fix. When the third notice remained non-compliant, council had no option but to pursue the matter through the courts. 

Judge Barkle summarised that TPHL as an owner of many commercial buildings could not rely on the defence that this was an oversight and found the actions to be deliberate. “It is self-evident that the building fire control systems are for the safety of occupants, visitors, surrounding property owners and in the event of a rescue operation or firefighting also for rescuers and firefighters. Any fire control systems which do not meet the requisite level of compliance and are certified as such, potentially expose people to risk of significant injury or even death in the event of a fire.”  

The starting point for the fine was set at $16,000, and with discounts for a guilty plea and previous good character the final fine amounted to $12,000. 

Dennis Bush-King, Tasman District Council’s Environment and Planning Manager says “We are pleased with the court decision as it serves as a reminder to all building owners that complying with safety standards is a crucial part of their responsibilities. We don’t bring prosecutions lightly but our role is to ensure buildings are as safe as they can be for the people that live and work in them.”