Tapu Te Ranga Marae fire: Potting shed the only structure with consent
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/113384703/-

2019-06-11 04:41:22

The only confirmed consent Tapu Te Ranga Marae had when the main building burned down was for a single potting shed.

Despite that, the Wellington marae continued to have paying overnight guests including 27 Scouts cubs, who escaped Sunday's blaze, and other school groups before that.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean confirmed the council could not find any other consents for the entire site other than one for a small garden potting shed. It was possible there may be some retrospective consents the council had not yet been able to find, he said.

Construction of the main marae building began in 1974 and continued for 30 years.

Stuff this week revealed council boss Kevin Lavery in 2015 filed paperwork deeming buildings in the marae complex as dangerous. This would have led to the immediate evacuations of a number of buildings on the site.

Council documents show four buildings in front of the marae, including the meeting house, were issued dangerous building notices in 2015. The main marae building, destroyed in the fire, also got a notice, which the council confirmed was largely due to fire safety concerns.

MacLean said council inspectors had since deemed parts of the building, including the downstairs areas the Scouts cubs were staying, safe even though they had no consents.

"From a historical point of view it has always been a complicated and complex site and there has been a political and cultural aspect to the whole thing," MacLean said when asked why the marae had been able to resume operating and have paying guests.

"The council over the years has had to perform a kind of balancing act relating to the whole Tapu Te Ranga site. If we attempted to close the whole thing down, we would have made a lot of people homeless."

The marae's website on Tuesday continued to advertise being available for functions and could cater for up to 100 people at a time sleeping "marae-style" on mattresses on the floor.

Tapu Te Ranga Trust spokesman Gabriel Tupou would not discuss "consents issued in the past 45 years" but said it was hard to believe that the marae building could get a warrant of fitness without the necessary consents.

In the early days it had been developed with the help and blessing of then-Mayor Sir Michael Fowler.

He confirmed guests, which regularly involved overnight school groups, were asked to give a koha but would not say how much this was.

Island Bay School principal Deborah Fenton confirmed a small group from the school had done an overnight stay at the marae prior to the 2015 dangerous building notice.

At the time she contacted the council to see it was safe and was not given any information, such as details on the lack of consents, to suggest it was not safe.

"I have to trust they were honest - I checked with them."

Local councillor Fleur Fitzsimons understood there had been a "long and sometimes strained relationship" between the marae and council.  "In my view, the council must be compassionate and considered in our dealings with the marae and support their important work in rebuilding.  "I expect that any issues arising from the fire or with previous building work will be investigated by the council and any lessons implemented in the future."

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