Cops called over developer’s safety fence


Police and Queenstown’s council have been drawn into a dispute over a new hotel site’s safety fence.

Lew Gdanitz, of Mipad Holdings Ltd, is building a 54-bedroom, $10 million hotel in Henry Street, which shares a boundary with Stanley St’s Queenstown Playcentre.

Without permission, Mipad contractors dismantled a boundary fence on Saturday morning and replaced it with a safety barrier that encroaches on the playcentre’s property by 2m. 

Gdanitz says he was forced to break the law and he did it with child safety in mind.

The Ministry of Education, which owns the land, says the new fence doesn’t meet safety standards.

Wakatipu Community Constable Zoe Albon, of Queenstown, confirmed police attended the building site at lunchtime yesterday.

She wouldn’t confirm who contacted them but said it wasn’t a police matter.

After listening to both sides of the argument she described it as a “tricky” situation. 

Ministry boss of education infrastructure Kim Shannon says it’s seeking legal advice and had asked the council to clarify resource consent terms and conditions in relation to the building work. 

Queenstown council comms boss Michele Poole says the council doesn’t believe the company is breaching its resource consent.

Shannon says there was a risk children might be able to get through the new fence.

“We would expect the installation of a safety fence around a construction site to be the responsibility of the company. We would expect such a fence to be erected on their own property, as it had not been agreed with us.”

Another bone of contention was financial matters.

Mipad Holdings said it was prepared to put up hoarding where the new fence now stands, and to make a one-off ex gratia payment for use of the 2m strip of land, but a suitable figure couldn’t be agreed.

The company offered $5000, and the Playcentre sought $32,000.

Shannon says she will work with both parties to resolve the issue – but Gdanitz isn’t convinced an agreement will be reached.

Gdanitz: “It isn’t that I’m being hard-nosed. I know this could look like I am being the cowboy, but I’ve been left with no choice.”

On the site on Saturday, Gdanitz points out safety concerns to ODT.

His hotel will sit approximately 30cm from the Playcentre boundary.

“I know I am breaking the law but I am doing so to try to protect the children. I don’t want to be held responsible for an accident. What if a cellphone fell out of a tradie’s pocket and whacked a kid on the head?

“The school is insisting we put the fence up against our property but that isn’t protecting the children. As a company director, that responsibility is mine.”

He claims the 2m buffer will act as a safety zone.

Mindy Swigert, of Queenstown Playcentre, the independent organisation which leases the land, declined to comment.

Otago Daily Times