30 May 2023

Review shows 25 more buildings like Loafers Lodge operating in Wellington

2:36 pm on 30 May 2023
Emergency tape remains at the scene of a fatal fire at Loafers Lodge in Wellington on 16 May, 2023.

Five people died following a suspicious fire at Loafers Lodge earlier this month. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

A Wellington City Council review in the wake of a fatal fire at Loafers Lodge shows there are 25 similar buildings currently operating in the capital.

The review of commercial accommodation, in high-density buildings of two storeys or more, found four of those buildings were operating without a current Building Warrant of Fitness (BWOF).

Mayor Tory Whanau said lives depended on bringing the buildings up to standard quickly.

"The fire has rightly put safety in the spotlight. I call on the government to review the regulations around building safety including whether sprinklers should be required in all buildings like Loafers Lodge."

Tory Whanau

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Of the four buildings, one was not required to have a BWOF and the council was waiting on information from the other three owners.

A statement from the council said officers would be following each building up "as a matter of priority".

It said the locations of the buildings identified in the review would not be released publicly and there could be further additions to the list in the future.

Five people died and nearly 100 lost their shelter when fire tore through Loafers Lodge two weeks ago. Four of the five confirmed dead were over 60 years old.

Stephen Turnock, director of Wellington's Downtown Community Ministry, said vulnerable men aged between 45 and 65 were over-represented in accommodation like Loafers Lodge, often a last resort for people who would otherwise be on the street.

"A lot of these men experience multiple barriers and problems [such as] mental health, addiction [and] more than likely have experienced numerous traumatic events during their lives. [There are] very complex and very high needs for this group."

He said providing long-term, safe, secure housing and "intensive wraparound" support gave the best results in the ministry's work to assist the men.

Downtown Community Ministry supported people who stayed in emergency and temporary accommodation, including Loafers Lodge.

Turnock said access to housing was a human right and such accommodation should be held to a higher standard.

He was "absolutely" in support of calls to make sprinklers for high density accommodation to be made compulsory.

"The risk is there and the risk is unacceptable."

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