Fears of fatal house fire grow


Over-crowding in Queenstown houses is raising Fire Service fears of a fatal fire.

Mountain Scene raised this issue last June, with property managers saying an acute rental shortage was creating hazardous living conditions.

But the situation has worsened - as shown by NZSki being forced to accommodate some of its winter workers in Cromwell.

Central-North Otago boss Keith McIntosh, who’s based in Queenstown, confirms the Fire Service has concerns, particularly in the lead-up to winter.

“We are at risk in Queenstown of having fire fatalities in crowded housing,” he tells Mountain Scene.

“I would implore landlords to ensure their tenants have got working smoke alarms - especially if they’re packing tenants in their premises.”

Last May, two neighbouring houses in Fernhill were engulfed in a after a tenant left from a wood burner in a bucket on the deck.

Just before Christmas, a was started near houses in Sunshine Bay, which authorities said could have roared up the hill to Skyline’s gondola.

McIntosh says Queenstown doesn’t get many fires but it’s lucky to date that no one has been killed in one.

“If you add that additional fuel of alcohol, if that is involved, then you’ve got a pretty lethal mix there of over-crowding, [lack of] smoke alarms and alcohol.

“We’re concerned that there’s a real potential for fire fatalities in Queenstown - particularly in over-crowded accommodation, because obviously the more over-crowded they are, the greater the number of fatalities that there is the potential to be.”

The potential for a fatal fire “must be” growing, he says, considering the housing shortage - and because rooms are now being sold by the bed.

A law change requires smoke alarms to be installed in all tenanted properties from July 1.

Last year, Housing Minister Nick Smith said the regulations will make landlords responsible for providing an operational smoke alarm, while tenants have to replace batteries and notify landlords of defects.

McIntosh says providing smoke alarms is a moral obligation.

“I would strongly encourage landlords to make sure their tenants are as safe as possible.”