The Dominion Post
Library report blasts council
Just how a Kapiti Coast library became a health hazard has been laid bare in a damning new report.
The Kapiti Coast District Council-commisioned report into issues at the Waikanae Library not only criticised the council’s systems, processes and reports but warned that other councilowned properties – including pensioner housing – needed full reviews immediately.
It also found that the library was reported as being leaky as early as 1995, and the first reference to mould and fungus on its carpet and walls was made in November 2017.
‘‘It was widely known the building leaked and leaked badly. The information was available; however, staff saw in the information what they wanted to see.’’
Stuff revealed in February that at least 16 years of leaks and months of staff concerns preceded the library’s November 2018 closure.
Council records, released under the Official Information Act, showed that despite visible white mould, dripping walls and rotting carpet, the building was not tested for toxic mould until four months after staff complained of asthma.
The library was shut immediately after the test results, and now carries a combined bill of more than $2 million to fix ‘‘design flaws’’ in the roof, cladding and windows.
At least 27,000 books were decontaminated, and a temporary library set up at a nearby site.
Council group manager James Jefferson said in a statement that work was already under way to address the Morrison Low Report’s recommendations.
‘‘We asked for this report so we can prevent anything like this happening again, and we are 100 per cent committed to acting on the findings highlighted in the report as quickly as possible. We have already taken positive steps to turn the situation around.’’
The report highlighted the need to better link council reporting systems and make all property portfolio information available in one place for better informed decision-making, said Jefferson.
‘‘We’re also taking a look at our decision-making processes to make sure we take a 360-degree view and put people’s safety and wellbeing at the centre of these discussions.’’
According to the report, while the council had all the information it needed to act earlier on the issue, ‘‘organisationally it chose not to’’.
Complaints weren’t followed up, systems were unclear, and property staff didn’t escalate or report issues, instead ‘‘nursing the building along regardless of the risk or consequences.’’
It also warned that discussions with staff indicated the council had ‘‘significant issues’’ with community halls and pensioner housing. ‘‘There are significant risks and consequences, including reputational damage, if this is not investigated immediately.’’