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Harcourts Timaru fined $55,000 - 20th Mar 2015

A Timaru real estate company has been fined $55,000 and ordered to pay $5000 in reparation as a result of a prosecution brought by Worksafe New Zealand.

The Timaru District Court was told the leakage of 30 kilograms of gas, due to gasfitting work carried out by an unqualified handyman, could have cost the life of a Timaru man.

Blackham Boote Real Estate Ltd (trading as Harcourts Timaru) and Larry Stewart Warner, 53, appeared on Thursday on three charges each under the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Act. They related to the incident at a residential property on Marston Rd, Timaru.

The property was part of a block of properties owned by a family trust.

The trust contracted Blackham Boote Real Estate to manage the property.

The property manager enlisted the help of Warner to remove the gas heater at the property via a written work order. This breached the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Act by employing a person to do gasfitting when he was not authorised to do so.

Warner, who is not a qualified gasfitter, asked for clarification on whether the gas was also being taken out and was told it was.

On June 13, 2014, Warner removed the gas heater.

Judge Maze said he did this when he was "unauthorised to do so and he failed to meet obligations in relation to gas fitting in a domestic setting".

"He failed to ensure the fitting was safe to prevent serious harm and potential significant damage."

Before uninstalling the gas heater, Warner checked the gas bottles and turned them off. He then rechecked the gas bottles to make sure they were empty.

The house also used gas to heat its water system and after removing the gas heater he left an open-ended copper pipe sticking 20 to 25cm out of the wall and leading straight into the house.

Prosecutor Steve Symon said at this point Warner should have known if the gas had been turned on it would have pumped straight through the house.

The next day a tenant moved in and discovered the property's water heating system was gas-powered. He employed Rockgas Timaru to deliver and install a new LPG cylinder and remove the existing cylinder.

"That evening I noticed a slight smell, which increased significantly the next morning," the tenant told the court.

It was found 30kg of gas had leaked overnight.

"Because of the incident my body continues to suffer. I should be dead and I would be, but by the grace of God," the tenant said.

The judge found both the defendants guilty. She sentenced Warner to 200 hours' community work and ordered him to pay reparation of $1700.

She convicted and fined Blackham Boote Real Estate Ltd $55,000 and ordered it to pay reparation of $5000.

- The Timaru Herald

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