A Wanaka company director and Oxford University-educated
social anthropologist, who worked as a geisha in Japan, has
been fined $64,000 and ordered to pay $9000 in costs to the
Queenstown Lakes District Council, after being convicted of 14
charges under the Building Act.
Defendant Fiona Caroline Graham, also sole director of Wanaka
Gym Ltd, was criticised by Judge David Holderness, in his
sentencing remarks released last night, for her "almost
contemptuous attitude" towards council officers' attempts to
secure her building consent compliance and safeguard up to 17
paying tenants staying in the backpacker-style group-sleeping
area, within her property of 155 Tenby St, Wanaka.
Graham adopted "an obstructive stance against the council"
over building consent compliance, which cost "substantial
expense" over seven years.
Judge Holderness said Graham was "the alter ego of the
She had not demonstrated any significant remorse and "an
avoidance of responsibility is apparent".
Australian-born Graham was found guilty by Judge Holderness
of five charges against her and nine against her company in
April, in the Queenstown District Court.
His judgement was delivered on April 19, following a six-day
hearing in November 2009 and December 2009.
The judge said the council, represented by counsel Richard
Cunliffe, regarded the most serious offence the failure of
defendants Wanaka Gym and Graham to comply with the notice to
fix, which was served in July 2008.
It was contended the next most serious were where the
defendants permitted the use and occupation of the building
after the dangerous building notice had been attached, on
June 25, 2008.
Wanaka Gym using the building for sleeping accommodation when
the council found it unsafe in the event of fire and
different works carried out to the building permit were the
next most serious.
Graham's "screwing up" of the dangerous building notice from
the front door of the building, in the presence of council
officers and taking it inside, was "intentional and
deliberate", the judge said.
Judge Holderness said on August 11, 2008, more than three
weeks after the service of the notice to fix and nearly seven
weeks after the dangerous building notice had been attached
to 155 Tenby St, "Some 17 people were still sleeping
overnight in the group-sleeping area ..."
"Others had arrived after the dangerous building notice had
been attached, but were nevertheless permitted to begin
staying in the building and paying rent."
Judge Holderness said he did not overlook that enough work on
the building was done, after the August 8, 2008 injunction
and the subsequent vacating, for a council inspector to lift
the dangerous building notice after a visit on July 27, 2010.
Graham's original defence counsel was David More, until his
relationship with his client became "increasingly strained"
and he was granted leave to withdraw by the judge.
Graham's second lawyer, David McCaskill, sought name
suppression with regard to her activities in Japan since
However, Judge Holderness said there was no material before
the court to establish whether her future in Japan would be
seriously jeopardised and refused the publishing prohibition
in his sentencing remarks.