8 Apr 2024

Auckland's Parnell's City Garden Lodge failed Building Warrant of Fitness twice last year

7:31 pm on 8 April 2024
Firefighters extinguishing a large blaze at Parnell's City Garden Lodge on 7 April 2024.

A firefighter battling the blaze on Sunday. Photo: SUPPLIED

A boarding house in Auckland's Parnell that was decimated in a fire failed its Building Warrant of Fitness twice last year over several areas of non-compliance, including a problematic external fire escape.

Ten people were evacuated from the building around 4.30pm on Sunday as large flames were seen and thick black smoke swept across the neighbourhood.

One resident who said he was supported by Work and Income to live there had to scramble out of the window, jumping on to a nearby tree before landing on the ground.

Auckland Council said the building failed a Building Warrant of Fitness (BWoF) audit in July 2023 due to numerous non-compliances, and failed again in early August due to the external fire escape not being "structurally sound".

The council's field surveying manager Jeff Fahrensohn said a follow-up visit on 22 August found the lodge's escape stairs had been strengthened sufficiently for it to pass a BWoF audit.

A new BWoF was issued for the building on 28 November 2023.

Fahrensohn said the council has been working closely with the owners of the lodge to gain compliance, and the owners had plans to upgrade the escape stairs further.

He said the lodge was due for its annual audit on Tuesday this week.

Auckland Council said City Garden Lodge was among about 160 buildings used for transient accommodation in Auckland on the council's BWoF register.

Parnell's City Garden Lodge is seen on 8 April, 2024, the morning after it caught fire.

The aftermath of the fire. Photo: RNZ / Jordan Dunn

The lodge was also one of 37 buildings the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment assessed, as part of an investigation into boarding houses similar to Loafers Lodge which burned down last year - killing five people.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) head of building system, delivery and assurance Simon Thomas said it had noted fire safety concerns when its teams visited in September last year, and had referred the issues to Auckland Council to follow up.

Thomas said MBIE's tenancy compliance and investigations team had also investigated the building's compliance with the Residential Tenancies Act.

He said this investigation was in the process of being closed, and that it noted the lodge may not be subject to the act due to it primarily being a temporary accommodation provider.

Thomas said MBIE was satisfied that Auckland Council was taking appropriate steps.

Meanwhile, the Ministry for Social Development said the lodge was not currently being used for emergency accommodation.

The ministry said the last time the City Garden Lodge was a supplier of emergency housing was in July 2022.

Crews respond to a fire in Parnell, Auckland on Sunday 7 April.

Emergency services at the scene of the blaze. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

A spokesperson for the ministry said it could not comment on the specific case of the resident RNZ spoke to who said he was previously homeless and that Work and Income had arranged the accommodation, due to privacy.

The Ministry for Housing and Urban Development said the lodge had no transitional housing.

Auckland Council said it has arranged temporary accommodation for people displaced by the fire.

Auckland Emergency Management's general manager Adam Maggs said extra assistance will be provided to those affected over the next day, while other agencies arrange long-term help.

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