Hostels in court on fire charges

FOUR budget accommodation operators appeared in Bundaberg Magistrates Court yesterday charged with breaching fire safety regulations.

Sharon Kay McIlwain and Stanley John McIlwain are each charged with failing to prepare a fire safety management plan, while Thao Thi Thu Nguyen and Luc Quang Do face charges of failing to prepare a fire safety management plan and not complying with the Fire Service Act.

The four cases were adjourned until March 11 to allow defence lawyers to seek further instruction.

The court appearances came as Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts announced a review into the inspection of backpacker accommodation and the enforcement of fire safety rules.

The review will take place as the 10-year anniversary of the Childers Palace Backpackers Hostel fire, which claimed the lives of 15 people, approaches.

“No one wants to see a repeat of this tragedy,” Mr Roberts said.

The fire service inspected 770 newly identified and unregistered student and backpacker accommodation buildings in the three years from January 2007 to February this year.

Forty of those properties have been inspected by the QFRS in the northern region, which includes Bundaberg.

Of those properties in this region, 27 were told to reduce the number of people staying at the premises until the building complied with fire safety standards.

Queensland Fire and Rescue Service commissioner Lee Johnson said he welcomed the review and would like to see a focus on “intelligence gathering” on operators not complying with rules.

Bundy Workers and Divers Hostel owner John Walker said the review needed to look at better enforcement of the rules.

“If the minister wants to do a review he needs to look at the (budget accommodation) that isn’t registered, because this smacks to me of persecuting the ones that are complying,” he said.

The hostel owner estimated it cost about $3500 per bed to comply with the regulations expected by various government departments.



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