DHB boss under fire from disability group
05 November 2002

Auckland District Health Board (DHB) chairman Wayne Brown has been taken to task by a disability group for refusing to install a disabled toilet at a store he owns at Mangonui in Northland.

Mr Brown, who owns a historic 97-year-old building housing a grocery store and standing on piles in the sea at Mangonui, has been told to install the toilet by Far North District Council.

He has refused, saying none of the workers in the Four Square, which doubles as Mangonui's general store and Post Shop, are disabled.

Mr Brown's refusal has been labelled shameful by CCS.

"Refusing to obey the law is shameful for such a public figure as the chairman of the country's largest health board," CCS national president Lyall Thurston said.

"While he doesn't employ anybody who uses a wheelchair, does this mean he will discriminate in the future?"

Mr Thurston said Mr Brown should follow the Building Act, just like everybody else, as it was there to ensure equal access for all.

"One would think the statutorily-required disability support advisory committee to the Auckland DHB is suffering apoplexy with this outburst. The (DHB) chairman should lead by example," he said.

The district council insists that under the law the work has to be done. The impasse has now gone to the Building Industry Authority in Wellington for a ruling, which could take several weeks.

"It's surgery the old building doesn't need, a toilet that won't be used," Mr Brown said.

The row began when Mr Brown, who has made headlines for his outspoken comments, decided to alter and upgrade the building.

The work involves putting a new roof over the store and doing up the front of the shop, the only land access to the building. He lives in part of the building, rated category two by the Historic Places Trust and a landmark in the Far North town. The Four Square is in the other part.

The work triggered provisions of the Building Act which require toilet facilities for paraplegics in commercial properties.

"But there are no paraplegic workers there and it's unlikely people in wheelchairs are going to be employed to stack grocery shelves," Mr Brown said.

"This is a food premises. You don't go there to use a toilet."

The store employs four fulltime and four part-time staff, none paraplegics, and they use a staff toilet.

Far North council chief executive Clive Manley said the amount of alteration work Mr Brown was doing on his building meant he had to meet modern standards under the Building Act. That included paraplegic toilets.


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