Loafers Lodge – one year on – who ‘really’ cares?

Loafers Lodge

It’s one year since the Loafers Lodge fire.

Loafers Lodge did not have a fire sprinkler system. It was not required to by law.

Five men died. Eighty-two people lost their homes. Some lost all their possessions.

People were concerned, shocked, grieving.

Wellington City Missioner Murray Edridge told RNZ after the fire that he hoped Wellington would change forever.

“The benchmark or threshold I use … is that if I wouldn’t live there myself or allow a member of my family to live there, then it’s not suitable for anybody else.”

Review findings

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment review into 37 buildings like Loafers Lodge (a boarding facility at least three storeys tall, without sprinklers) found more than 100 concerning issues.

The review found these boarding houses were on average 60 years old. Most were not built for accommodation purposes. Sixty-nine percent had issues with safety systems including non-working smoke detectors and unmonitored alarm systems.

A Wellington City Council audit report in June 2023 found 25 buildings like Loafers Lodge in Wellington.

Of these, 21 had a current building warrant of fitness. One had never had one; three did, but they were not current.

Fire and Emergency’s substantive review has not yet been released.

In September, Cabinet approved harsher penalties for building owners who did not have building warrants of fitness.

Who really cares?

Whatever ideas people might have had and whatever laws have been passed for the upgrading of accommodation standards and safety, it’s clear not every landlord will carry them out.

For some tenants, nothing’s changed – or even likely too it seems, if an an Auckland property investor’s experience is anything to go by.

After buying a tenanted Auckland halfway-house, Joanne Chaplow was shocked to find there was no real oversight on standards of accommodation, care or landlords despite a government ministry paying the bills.

Without any background in mental health care, Chaplow accompanies tenants to the doctors, assists with medical decisions, administers prescription drugs and helps some manage their money.

“If I was an unscrupulous landlord, they [tenants] could be totally taken advantage of… No-one is checking on me.”

She says when she bought the lodge she immediately set about improving the conditions.

“Some of the mattresses had springs coming out the top. There were pillows and bedding … I wouldn’t have let my dog sleep on.”

Tenants say before Chaplow became involved they would sometimes get just noodles and cereal to eat. She provides hot meals daily.

They’re happy, she enjoys being with them and her accommodation is exemplary, she’s told.

“I’ve been told by mental health nurses that my lodge is among the best. How can that be? I have absolutely no experience” Chaplow says.

Meanwhile, Loafers Lodge remains unchanged after the fire.

Housing and Construction Minister Chris Penk has announced another review of fire safety regulations.

Edridge says he’s not satisfied progress has been made.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

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