QLDC lays charges over Kmart building safety issues

by Peter Newport - Feb 14, 2019

The company behind the troubled Kmart building project in Queenstown, Dominion Constructors Ltd,  is being taken to court by the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

A report from Stuff also says that one of Dominion's former employees has also been charged under the Building Act. Both the company and the former employee could face fines of up to $200,000.

The charges have been laid in the Queenstown District Court.

Crux reported extensively last year on the safety issues with the building project that were only uncovered after a whistle blower told the council's building inspectors that seven out of eight steel bars connecting the building's walls to the foundations had been mysteriously cut.

New, half height walls and new connections to the foundations had to be built in order to make the building safe only hours before it was opened to the public (see main image.)

Brett Russell square2

Brett Russell of the Russell Group - owners of Dominion Constructors, the company that built the Kmart building on Queenstown.

The owner of Dominion Constructors, Brett Russell of the Russell Group, told Crux last year that there was an "accidental" coverup that prevented the situation being fixed, but only by the employee who had cut through the metal connections.

It's not known at this stage whether this man is the former employee now facing court charges.

Mr Russell described last year how an employee, in the first half of 2018, started accidentally cutting through the steel bars that connected the concrete wall panels to the foundations. "The reality is what should have happened is the guy should have stopped and got approval for what he was doing - but he didn't. I think he tried to cover up his mistakes."

Crux understands that this employee cut through a considerable number of steel connections without any apparent intervention from a site supervisor.

Brett Russell said the cut reinforcing steel was not pre-stressed, meaning that repairing the damage was "not too complex".

Refusing to comment on individual employment matters Mr Russell did confirm to Crux last year that there had been "consequences" in terms of various people involved in the series of errors.

Speculating on the source of multiple, negative rumours around the Kmart building, Brett Russell told Crux he thought everything was coming from a disgruntled sub-contractor who lost his job in late 2017. He dismissed the incident as being "relatively normal" in the construction industry where sub-contractors often then employ other sub-contractors, resulting in issues around money and communications.

The case is due to be heard in Queenstown on March 25.

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