The Hamilton City Council has failed to remove the long-time operators of the Waingaro Hot Springs, following a High Court decision that allows Chuhar and Amro Singh another three months to bring the facility up to standard.
The council applied to the High Court to have the couple’s lease terminated after they failed to maintain and repair the hot springs facility over time. Following the court hearing in August, Justice Christian Whata recently released his decision, giving the couple a list of repairs to complete over the next three months.
The issue has been dragging on for some time, with the council identifying health and safety issues at the springs in a 2013 report and then barricading off most of the pool facilities.
A November 2013 council inspection discovered, among other concerns, that the geothermal water was not being chlorinated, exposing bathers to the dangerous Nagleria Fowleri organism, which can cause amoebic meningitis. The water was also rising to the potentially scalding temperature of 56 degrees.
The land at Waingaro Hot Springs is owned by the council but for the past 22 years it has been leased to the Singhs, who own the buildings and facilities on the site.
During their time at the springs, the couple have had two drownings, breached advertising standards by using old footage of the facility, lost their PoolSafe accreditation in 2012 and failed to keep up with required mainenance.
In his decision, Justice Whata found the Singhs guilty of multiple breaches but also accused the council of being unhelpful, saying the council should have been more active in bringing their concerns to the Singhs’ attention.
“The conduct of the council has not been exemplary…the council took blunderbuss approach to the non-compliances and some of the items were not essential,” he said.
“The Singhs have however taken significant steps to remedy their breach, even though as I have said they should have completed the requisite repairs by the time of the hearing. They have expended more than $450,000 to comply with the notice of cancellation.”
He directed the Singhs to make repairs to the unit motel block, reception kiosk, spa pools, hydroslide pump room, pool filter enclosure and timber steps within 90 days and get their ACC Poolsafe Accreditation.
The Singhs’ lawyer, David Taylor, alleged the breaches were not deliberate and the delay in getting work done was due to a lack of clarity as to what was necessary and council blocking applications for building consent and certificate of compliance.
Council chief executive Gavin Ion said its focus was the health and safety of the community “as we’re responsible for ensuring any facilities operating in our district, either private entities or council-owned, are maintained to a high standard and meet the necessary health and safety requirements”.