'We say it's only a matter of time' - London apartment fire horror could happen in NZ, says expert

The president of New Zealand’s top building watchdog has warned it’s "only a matter of time" before a catastrophe like the London apartment block fire happens here.

HOBANZ president John Gray says he's aware of life-threatening defects like a lack of fire walls and fire-retardant buildings. Source: 1 NEWS

Speaking on TVNZ 1's Breakfast, Home Owners and Builders Association (HOBANZ) president John Gray said shoddy fire safety building practices by developers, and “willful blindness” from certifiers in approving them, is widespread in New Zealand.

"We have to get to the bottom of whether this cladding has been installed on New Zealand buildings, and it would be of grave concern if it was," Gray said.

"The safety and welfare of those that occupy these buildings is at risk and we’ve already seen some fires in high rise buildings in Auckland in recent times.

"We say that it’s only a matter of time that something will take hold in one of these buildings and potentially cause loss of life."

Gray said his knowledge of the poor fire safety standard of New Zealand buildings has only been discovered during the course of doing remedial work on leaky buildings around the country.

"That’s the only way we’ve been able to discover that these problems exist," he said.

"It’s a one hundred per cent hit rate in terms of the large terraced housing and the large apartment buildings that we have been assisting owners to actually remediate.

"It is gravely concerning to us and we need to know, because clearly a 100 per cent hit rate would indicate that a very high percentage of other buildings built from early 90’s through to as late as 2012 are potentially at risk."