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Pensioner suffers broken ribs in slip at South Auckland shopping centre - calls to fix leaky roof

Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai

A South Auckland community is calling for urgent repairs to be made on a leaky roof at a local shopping centre after a pensioner suffered three fractured ribs when he slipped and fell on a puddle.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Lefale Talamelu Paueli, 73, was at the Māngere Town Centre last week when he slipped on a puddle inside the vicinity.

He suffered three fractured ribs and injured his left shoulder and arm.

It had been raining that day and puddles had formed from a leaky part of the roof.

“When I was walking, I didn’t take much notice of the slippery and wet ground because I was busy looking up at the store I was heading towards,” the pensioner said.

“I realised I was about to fall and the only thing I could do at that time, which I am thankful for, was to protect my head.”

Lefale had been out shopping for a suitcase ahead of a flight to Samoa the next day - a trip that had to be cancelled due to the seriousness of his injuries.

Lefale was due to attend a number of important village meetings, for which he serves as a high chief.

“My health is much more important and those affairs can wait,” he said.

“I want something to be done about the situation, [understand] whoever is accountable and work together.”

On the day of the accident, Lefale was spotted by local community advocate known as Frits 275, who owns the Two Seven Five retail store.

With the permission of Lefale, Frits took to social media, posting a video calling out owners of the Māngere Town Centre and authorities.

“This has been an ongoing problem in the town centre,” he says in the short clip.

In the background, Lefale can be seen sitting on a chair, at one point gripping his left arm.

Frits said he has seen up to four people slip and fall on the wet grounds during his time leasing his business there.

“I’m taking the social media route because it’s the only way things get done now. It’s holding the public figures to account.”

“We travel around Auckland where we see other communities that are nice that are council-owned and you look at ours and it’s not nice.”

At the centre, a clear glass canopy is connected to the actual rooftop, protecting the inside walkway.

When it rains, it falls onto the canopy and then onto the roof - part of which needs to be repaired.

‘I feel for the elderly who may one day have a fatal fall’

Exactly who is responsible for fixing the issue is somewhat in the air.

Māngere-Otahuhu Local Board Chairperson Tauanu’u Nick Bakulich said the Auckland Council owns everything directly beneath the middle section of the canopy.

The Māngere Business Association has a contract with Auckland Council, which owns the grounds.

Māngere Business Association are the lease-holders whose responsibility is to the town centre.

They have an agreement with the private investors who own a portion of the buildings.

To that end, private investors who own a portion of the building must maintain and upgrade their portion of the structure.

Tauanu’u’s plea is for the private owners to do right by the community by upgrading its assets.

He said the Council needs to initiate its compliance and get a compliance officer to South Auckland.

“We’ve been asking and requesting the compliance officers to come and assess these businesses. There is no use having these regulations and bylaws if no one is enforcing them.

“As far as I’m concerned, you’ve got private owners who are getting away with some responsibility.”

Town Centre manager Dave Fearon said there are cautionary signs and cones in the centre.

“Each investor has a responsibility to upkeep the maintenance of their section.

The local board and landlords have paid to install extra piping to help move the water when we get heavy downpours.”

The centre was built in the 1970s and Fearon said: “We’ve had more downpours of rain this century, and the way it was built back then is not fit for nowadays. It needs a whole new build.”

As for Lefale, he is taking medication and sporting a sling, a week on. He wants the repairs fixed so another person does not suffer the same fate.

“I fear for many of the elderly, like me, who may one day have a fatal fall.”

Hero Image: Lefale Talamelu Paueli, 75, slipped and injured himself at the Māngere Town Centre where part of the roof was leaking. Photo / Alex Burton

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