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Don’t buy apartments in Wellington, councillor says in wake of heritage Toomath building blaze



Individuals should not buy apartments in Wellington City due to rising costs for earthquake strengthening and insurance, a central Wellington city councillor says.

The comments come after a heritage building in the city was gutted by fire after more than 20 years of wrangling over the owner’s earthquake strengthening responsibilities.

Iona Pannett said the new government needed to review laws around earthquake strengthening which had been unworkable since they were put into place in 2016.

“We’ve known for a long time that this was a problem and the legislation that was passed in 2016 was never going to work,” Pannett said.

Iona Pannett has previously run for the Wellington City Council on support from the Greens.

Wellington city councillor Iona Pannett. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

“We need to look at what we can afford, focus on the public buildings because obviously we have to ensure public safety. But there needs to be a more detailed risk analysis when we’re talking about private buildings.

“The insurers are getting quite bullish, particularly with climate-related disasters so, even if the government does review, the insurers can say ‘well we’re still going to keep charging you or we won’t cover for you’ but this does mean that people who don’t cover for earthquake risk are breaking the law. It’s a very difficult situation.”

The late-Victorian era Toomath’s building on Ghuznee Street caught fire on Sunday afternoon.

No-one was injured in the blaze but the building was in such disrepair, it was too unstable to enter.

An Urban Search and Rescue team used a drone to see inside and found significant structural damage.

The building had been subject to quake-prone building notices for over 20 years and had stood empty since 2019.

Fire crews respond to a fire on Ghuznee Street, Wellington.

The blaze on Sunday. Photo: Supplied / Harry Meadows

Since then, the neglected property had been swamped by graffiti, vines and the detritus of squatters who came and went from the back of building which faced onto a Cuba Street car park.

Police said they wanted to talk to four young people – three boys and one girl, aged about 10-15 – who were seen entering the building prior to the fire.

Felix Wenzel of neighbouring store Capital Fishing said it was a shame the owners and council had not been able to come to an agreement and had let the site deteriorate.

“The council’s got to bend a little bit I think. It gets to a point where eventually it’s just going to get pulled down anyway because it’s so deteriorated. It’s just frustrating that there was no decisions being made,” Wenzel said.

In response to the fire, Wellington mayor Tory Whanau said the city council wanted to look at the way it managed heritage buildings.

Whanau said her priority was to rebuild and revitalise the city and she knew the public would like the heritage look to be retained where possible.

“There are a number of us on council who would like to look at the way we can manage heritage buildings. Whether we need to change legislation so we can work through difficult buildings with earthquake prone issues,” she said.

Tory Whanau

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau said the city council wanted to look at the way it managed heritage buildings. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The fire came less than a fortnight after the council announced a multi-million dollar blow-out in the cost of strengthening and redeveloping Wellington Town Hall.

The $182 million project, which was already subjected to a nearly $40m cost increase in 2022, would now cost an additional $70m-$147m to complete.

In April, the council unveiled plans for the $188m strengthening rebuild of Wellington Library – Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui – which was due to reopen in 2026.

Pannett said the local or central government had to look at how much it could afford to support private owners who were required to strengthen buildings as a matter of public safety.

“There is a loan scheme in place but it is not enough to cover all the costs so there does need to be some grant funding given the benefits to public safety,” Pannett said.

Pannett said, in the current environment, renting long term just made better sense for inner city living.

“It’s better that they’re either maintained by the state or the city so we’ve got social housing, which we will need to strengthen too. Or you get institutional investors.

“People of course can choose to [buy] but I wouldn’t because of the cost,” she said.



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Christchurch terror attack inquest: ‘Significant blind spot’ relating to St John’s specialist paramedics – coroner



A woman who was forced to leave the side of her bleeding husband following the terror attack at Christchurch’s Linwood Islamic Centre only discovered he had died the following day after seeking help from then-prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

Saira Patel’s husband Musa Patel was one of seven people who died after being shot at the Linwood Islamic Centre, following the massacre at nearby Al Noor Mosque on 15 March 2019.

Supported by her son, Patel told the inquest into the deaths that she and her husband were praying in separate parts of the mosque on the day of the attack.

Patel said she thought a tyre had blown when she heard a loud bang. A baby began to cry, and she could soon smell gunpowder.

She yelled, “Someone is shooting, someone is shooting” as people ran to escape.

When Patel found her bleeding husband, she told the Coroners Court she could hear him saying his “last prayer” as if he knew he was about to die.

Imam Hafiz Musa Patel

Musa Patel died at Linwood Islamic Centre on 15 March 2019. Photo: Facebook/ US Embassy Suva

She said she was forced to leave when police arrived and started treating Musa Patel, an order that distressed her to this day.

“I think any dying person who is about to leave this world would be very desperately craving and needing to be close to their loved ones. My presence during his final moments would have made a big difference in my life and I think maybe his last moments of departing this world,” she said.

She did not know her husband had died until the following day, when she approached then-prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who led her to a counsellor.

Patel said the counsellor showed her a photo of an unidentified man in hospital who was not her husband.

“I knew then that my husband was dead. There was no-one else who could have identified him, and this last unidentified man was my last hope,” she said.

Patel thanked the doctors and paramedics who did everything they could to console her husband in his final moments.

“I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

“I was trying to be with him in that last moment but maybe they were chosen to be with him.”

Dr Alison Wooding from nearby Piki Te Ora Medical Centre was one of the doctors who treated Musa Patel when staff went to the mosque to help the injured.

She told the court he was meant to be the first victim taken to hospital but realised he had died after he was moved onto a stretcher.

Wooding said she and others were talking to Musa Patel the entire time they cared for him, but she did not recall him ever responding.

Police officers gave evidence on Tuesday saying Musa Patel had been able to communicate with them at first but his condition deteriorated over time.

Wooding told the court she felt apprehensive and worried about the situation at the mosque, but safe and protected between armed and vigilant police officers.

29th November 2023 Iain McGregor/The Press/Pool Christchurch Masjidain Attack Coronial hearing. Coroner Brigitte Windley.

Deputy chief coroner Brigitte Windley. Photo: The Press / Iain McGregor

‘Significant blind spot’ relating to St John emergency response team – coroner

The coroner has queried a “significant blind spot” in the way St John ambulance officers work with specialist paramedics trained to work in dangerous situations.

Deputy chief coroner Brigitte Windley questioned St John duty manager Bruce Chubb about the organisation’s response massacre.

Two Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) paramedics were among ambulance officers who went to the scene of the shooting in Linwood Avenue.

No-one from St John attended the Al Noor scene in a SERT capacity.

Chubb told the Coroners Court that SERT teams worked under police and it was not uncommon for St John not to know when they had been requested, where they were, or what they were doing.

In response, coroner Windley said: “My concern is that that creates a significant blind spot for St John, doesn’t it?”

“Isn’t it that these are critical resources in terms of closing that care gap for people who are dying and injured and being able to get a response in, and you’ve got no visibility about where they are and even if in fact they’ve been deployed?”

041223 CHRIS SKELTON Witness, Bruce Chubb from St John command and control during the Christchurch terror attack inquest held at the Christchurch Justice precinct.

St John’s Bruce Chubb. Photo: Stuff / Chris Skelton

Chubb said he was not suggesting it was “okay” that St John did not know where SERT officers were but said it was the practice at the time.

He was not aware of any changes to the SERT policy since the terror attack.

Chubb told the coroner he thought it was “always nice to know” where resources were, to which she replied, “I would suggest it’s more than nice to know. I would suggest that St John needs to know”.

Chubb earlier told the inquest that he believed general ambulance officers should not have entered either mosque immediately after the shootings because of the safety risk.

Windley said the court was concerned St John ambulance officers had to breach the organisation’s policy in order to get an emergency response in place.

“Do you agree that that’s fundamentally a problem?” she asked.

“Yes,” Chubb replied.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chubb told counsel for families Kathryn Dalziel that the terror attack was a catastrophic event that he did not expect and was never prepared for.

“I don’t believe any of my colleagues were either, so it was fundamentally overwhelming,” he said.

The inquest will examine the following 10 issues over seven weeks:

  • Events of 15 March 2019 from the commencement of the attack until the terrorist’s formal interview by police
  • Response times and entry processes of police and ambulance officers at each mosque
  • Triage and medical response at each mosque
  • The steps that were taken to apprehend the offender
  • The role of, and processes undertaken by, Christchurch Hospital in responding to the attack
  • Coordination between emergency services and first responders
  • Whether the terrorist had any direct assistance from any other person on 15 March 2019
  • If raised by immediate family, and to the extent it can be ascertained, the final movements and time of death for each of the deceased
  • The cause of death for each of the victims and whether any deaths could have been avoided
  • Whether Al Noor Mosque emergency exit door in the southeast corner of the main prayer room failed to function during the attack and, if so, why?

The inquest continues.


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Protests raise questions about next year’s Waitangi day



In the wake of protests over the new government’s policies on co-governance and the Treaty, the head of the Waitangi National Trust Board says it is important Treaty partners front up and have a conversation on 6 February.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says he intends to visit for Waitangi Day, as does ACT’s David Seymour.

The protests taking place across New Zealand on Tuesday were part of a “National Māori Action Day”, led by Te Pāti Māori and iwi, to challenge the government over its policies on the Treaty of Waitangi, and other policies affecting Māori.

Waitangi National Trust Board chairperson Pita Tipene expected for that sentiment to flow through on Waitangi Day.

“Clearly, the Māori people see it as an attack on the Treaty of Waitangi and the constitutional basis of this country,” Tipene said.

These include switching from Māori to English names on various government departments, rewriting legislation to make mentions of the principles of the Treaty more specific, and progressing an ACT bill calling for the principles to be set down under its own prescription, rather than decades of jurisprudence.


Ngāti Hine leader Pita Tipene

Ngāti Hine leader Pita Tipene Photo: RNZ

Tipene told Checkpoint there was no invite list for politicians per se, and the doors of the Trust were open for all to come along.

“Given that it is a Waitangi Day commemorations period, it’s really important that the Treaty of Waitangi is the focus, and therefore the Treaty partners should front up and have a conversation.”

He would be disappointed, but not surprised, if parties in government were not represented there on the day.

“It has happened before where governments or political parties have chosen not to front up at Waitangi.”


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Te Pāti Māori protests – Day of action focuses on new government’s Māori policies



Police says protesters are causing widespread delays at key transport networks around the North Island, but there have been no arrests so far.

A police spokesperson says commuters should allow travel time this morning, with Te Pāti Māori’s planned protests disrupting travel routes.

There are large gatherings in Tāmaki Makaurau and central Wellington, along with a number of other cities and towns.

The spokesperson says Auckland motorists are advised there are heavy delays on parts of the motorway network this morning.

The demonstrations are in response to Te Pāti Māori’s call for action against the new government’s policies on co-governance and the Treaty.


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