Building supervisor fined $24,000 for breach

The Kmart building in Queenstown before it opened. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The Kmart building in Queenstown before it opened. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
A former Dominion Constructors employee who admitted responsibility for faulty work on Queenstown’s Kmart building has been fined $24,000.

Jason Buehler, who now lives in Canada, was to be sentenced in the Queenstown District Court in May after admitting a charge under the Building Act of carrying out building work in breach of a consent.

Judge John Strettell set a fine of $38,000 at that hearing, but adjourned his final sentence until Buehler provided a formal statement of his ability to pay.

In a written decision, released to the Otago Daily Times last week, Judge Strettell said the original fine amount was appropriate to reflect the gravity of the offence, but he had reduced it after ‘‘taking into account the defendant’s ability to meet that fine’’.

Buehler has five years to pay it.

He was the project manager during the construction of the 4000sqm building, at the Queenstown Central shopping centre in Frankton, in 2018.

On or before August 2 of that year, steel reinforcing known as starter bars, embedded in the building’s concrete floor, were cut when it was found they did not align with junctions in a pre-cast concrete wall.

The faulty work, which could have led to the building collapsing in an earthquake or fire, was immediately reported to the Queenstown Lakes District Council by a whistle-blower.

Although it was unclear who actually cut the bars, or who directed the work to be carried out, Buehler was held responsible because it happened on his watch.

In his sentence, Judge Strettell said Buehler moved to Canada in late 2018, where he was unemployed until June last year.

He now had a full-time job in a supervisory role, and although he owned a house and a car, was making mortgage and loan payments on those assets.

He was also living away from home, which meant he had to pay rent.

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