Rooftop fines dragged common sense into the gutter

Alf has only just caught up with news that Hamilton Mayor Bob Simcock has been smitten by a severe dose of common sense.

He is asking city council staff to withdraw infringement notices issued to people who occupied roofs “in an unsafe manner” during the V8 supercar event in the city this year.

Mayor Simcock says there is no question that the people perching on roofs, which were never intended to be used in that way when constructed, is an illegal and unsafe activity under the Building Act.

However, Mayor Simcock says the Council took further legal advice today in an effort to resolve the issue of liability for Council and ratepayers if a death or injury should occur as a result of someone falling from a roof.

“That advice, while not completely clear cut, seems to indicate that Council can discharge its responsibilities under the Building Act by warning people that what they are doing is unsafe, without the need to issue an infringement notice.

So there you go. A warning would have done the trick.

But Simock seems keen to go further than a warning, if he can be given a pretext.

“Obviously if there is further legal direction which contradicts this advice then we may need to alter this stance,” says Mayor Simcock.

Meanwhile he is defending the strong-arm tactics of his bureaucrats.

Mayor Simcock says he is quite satisfied that Council staff followed a correct and thorough process in the way in which it communicated with building owners and occupiers where people were sitting on roofs. For people to say that they were not warned in advance of getting infringement notices is not true.

“Council’s intention has always been, and still is, to ensure that buildings are safe and that they are used correctly. This process has never been about preventing people from watching V8 supercar racing from their private property. To the contrary, Council has given a number of permits and consents for private grand stands which have been built around the race circuit in both 2008 and 2009.

There you go. Jobs for the bloody bureaucrats.

You’ve got to apply for a bloody permit to sit on your own room in Hamilton.

Oh, and Simcock draws attention to recently introduced penalty provisions under the Building Act– they provide for a set fine of $1500 for minor breaches of the Act.

Moreover, he says his legal advice indicated that Council was quite correct and justified in issuing infringement notices.

Maybe. But the council was unduly heavy-handed in imposing $1500 fines on 11 householders for letting people the city’s V8 races from their rooftops or makeshift stands.

The NZ Herald’s account of his backdown shows the extent of the nanny state thinking behind the council’s moves.
Hamilton Mayor Bob Simcock

…said staff had issued the notices because “it was unsafe use of the buildings for a purpose they weren’t designed for and that if we didn’t take action then we would be creating a liability for the council and the ratepayers”.

And –

“If somebody fell off the roof and was killed and a government agency or the affected party’s family was looking for someone to take action against, to hold responsible, the advice we’ve had is that with having warned the property owner then we’ve shifted that obligation fully on to them and we’ve taken reasonable steps,” Mr Simcock said.

“If we’d done nothing, then we’d probably have some liability ourselves.”

It sounds like bollocks to Alf, no matter what the law might say.
He goes along with Libertarianz spokesman Luke Howison, who said –

The Council boasts that staff took photographs of people on roofs to use as evidence. “What is this, Big Brother? You can’t sit peacefully on your own roof on your own property? I thought New Zealand was meant to be a reasonably free country!”

“The Council claims this is a safety issue, but we don’t see them fining homeowners for getting up on the roof to clear out their gutters This is simply petty revenge against people watching the supercars for free,” declared Howison.

“The Council should immediately withdraw and apologise, and what’s more, they should reimburse affected landowners for the disruption the supercars caused in terms of noise, parking, roading, and bureaucratic interference.”

“It’s enough to make you vote Libertarianz!”

Not quite. But Alf supports the Libertarianz sentiments on this one.

One Response to Rooftop fines dragged common sense into the gutter

  1. Pique oil says:

    Alf, I posted about this yesterday and asked the following question.
    If the ratepayers are guilty of using a building for a purpose it is not designed and thus are doing something unsafe, How come the council is able to use its building as a lunatic assylum without all the proper safeguards in place?

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