15 Dec 2017

478 days later, does Sky World have a WoF?

From Checkpoint, 5:23 pm on 15 December 2017

Auckland Council can't say if the owner of one of the city's busiest buildings has met a deadline to bring it up to warrant of fitness standard.

James Kwak owns the $42 million Sky World entertainment complex in central Auckland.

It has has not had a warrant of fitness for 478 days, in large part due to extensive fire safety issues revealed on Checkpoint with John Campbell earlier this year.

Auckland Council has not tried to prosecute Mr Kwak.

When he missed an end-of-October deadline to make Sky World fully compliant, Auckland Council labelled him "unresponsive" and "disengaged", but extended his deadline until today - 15 December.

The council told Checkpoint it is not in a position to say whether he has met that deadline, but aims to be able to say on Monday.  

The delays were in part caused by Mr Kwak struggling to find private fire compliance companies to do work on the building.

Argus and First Fire, two of Auckland's biggest, say they refused in part because of historical payment problems.

The fire compliance contractor currently helping Mr Kwak get a warrant demanded payment up front before agreeing to work on Sky World.

Checkpoint has asked Mr Kwak for an interview more than a dozen times since the start of October - by phone, email, and written letter - but he has never replied.

Council would welcome harsher penalties

Auckland Council said it would welcome harsher penalties for building owners who failed to meet compliance deadlines, as opposed to the current norm of a discharge without conviction or small fine.

The Building Act states any building owner who fails to fix problems can be fined up to $200,000, and $20,000 for every day the problems continued.

Since the start of 2014, Auckland Council has successfully prosecuted 30 building owners for failing to fix problems, but the harshest penalty set down by the courts was a $1000 fine, and six owners were discharged without conviction.

"Ultimately this is out of our hands and one of the reasons why we always seek to resolve these matters outside of the court process," Auckland Council's director of regulatory services, Penny Pirrit, said.

Ms Pirrit said she would welcome harsher penalties to "encourage building owners to comply with their responsibilities".