QLDC manager denies the facts of the council’s $6 million uninhabitable toxic house

by Peter Newport - Jan 09, 2024

The senior QLDC manager responsible for the $14 million land and house purchase at 516 Ladies Miles, Simon Battrick, has attacked Crux on social media telling residents not to believe our coverage.

Crux has double checked all of our facts, prior to publication, not just using external documents from licensed property valuers and building inspectors but noting that those documents are the same documents used by the council to spend $6 million on a house that was riddled with toxic mould prior to being purchased with ratepayers money. 

Not only did the council pay this money for the house but they then spent over $200,000 on planning to use it as a community centre and even invited the public into the house as part of an exercise to get ideas for its use. The second, more serious, toxic mold report had been supplied to the council 13 days before the Open Day invitation to the community.

It’s questionable as to whether it was safe to invite 300 members of the public into the house given the danger posed by the mold at that time.

On Saturday, January 6th Mr Battrick told the 7,600 members of the Lake Hayes Estate and Shotover Country Community page on Facebook “Don’t believe everything Crux says…”

Simon Battrick's post suggesting 7,600 community page readers don't believe what Crux writes

Crux Managing editor Peter Newport is a member of the Lake Hayes Facebook group as he lives in that part of Queenstown.

Crux is re-publishing links to our evidence in this article as well as QLDC CEO Mike Theelen’s response to Crux questions about Mr Battrick’s attack on our reporting.

Our view is that unless Mr Battrick has more facts that the community and Crux are unaware of he should apologise and then resign.

In an age of mistrust and misinformation there is clearly no place for public officials to incorrectly accuse journalists of getting their facts wrong.

Here are the facts Mr Battrick:

QLDC paid top dollar for the house after being clearly told it was a leaky building in “fair to poor condition.” This is the building inspection report from 2019 that was commissioned by QLDC and supplied to QLDC. Read the full story here.

Here's the final findings of that 2019 report:

The 2019 building inspection report was clear on the leaky building status and risk of the house at 516 Ladies Mile - so why did QLDC pay top dollar for it and then spend three years planning a $3.66 million project using the house?

Simon Battrick however told media October 12, 2022, three years later, that the $3.66 million plan to turn the house in a community centre was axed due to “previously unknown issues.”

The Open Day attended by 300 people to help advance the $3.66 million community hub/house plan, on which the council had already spent $200,000, went ahead in 2022 13 days after a second report which confirmed the presence of the highly toxic mould Stachybotrys. This second report was written by the same building inspector who wrote the 2019 pre-purchase building report.

We look forward to Mr Battrick’s apology and resignation – or the revelation of the secret facts that it appears only he knows about.

Here’s QLDC CEO Mike Theelen’s reply when we asked if Mr Battrick’s claim of dishonest Crux reporting was also held by the rest of the council.

"I have now been able to look into the matter and discussed with Simon. It is my understanding that Simon, responding through his personal social media rather than as a spokesperson for Council, sought to correct a misunderstanding about the acquisition and planned use for the Ladies Mile property.

"You will be aware that Council has previously advised Crux that the building itself was not part of the initial vision for the site and that the property was primarily purchased for the land investment.

"It was only at later direction of the elected Council that any potential use of the existing building was explored and subsequently discovered too not be possible. I am assured that this was the main focus of Simon's personal response.

"With regard to references to inaccuracies in media reporting, you will be aware that Council does engage with Crux and all other media on a regular basis to correct inaccuracies in reporting. Neither the media nor Council gets everything right all the time and correcting those errors or inaccuracies is a natural and expected part of the relationship between Council and media to make sure our communities are getting all the facts."

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