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Customers angered by 'blind leading the blind'

Published: 5:27AM Monday April 14, 2014 Source: Fairfax

Customers who lost possessions in a Wellington storage facility blaze are fuming, claiming they were given a two-day ultimatum to clear out what was left of their belongings.

Anger has been directed at the storage units' owners over a lack of information since the blaze, with a public meeting planned this week to vent their concerns.

However, the facility owners have rejected the customers' claims, saying they have been in regular contact with them since the blaze.

Yesterday, a stream of people entered the heavily-guarded Kilbirnie site to go through their storage units for the first time since the fire on April 4. Many walked out with nothing salvageable.

Megan Ransom had spent a week grieving about losing most of her household goods and an entire collection of sculpture tools, worth up to $50,000. She said she was now on the benefit, with no tools for her trade and no insurance.

"There has been no communication with any of us directly from the owners," she said. "The blind are leading the blind."

But Kiwi Self Storage director Andrew Fraser said the company had contacted nearly all 750 customers by either email or phone on the day of the fire.

The website was updated regularly with information about when customers could collect their possessions and a call centre had been set up to manage queries, he said.

Ransom, however, said phones at the storage company often went unanswered and it was only after she co-ordinated a Facebook group that information began to trickle in.

At first, she was told it would be late this week before she could get inside her unit. But a day later she was told she needed to get down there immediately to collect her belongings.

Kiwi Self Storage posted a statement on its website at 1.45pm on Saturday saying dozens of customers in one block needed to take items away by 5pm today.

"After this date we will be moving the goods aside to make access to other units," the website warned.

Lyall Bay's Peter Fowler said he repeatedly contacted the storage company until he was allowed into his unit late last week.

"I basically bullied my way in but I've lost everything."

Those affected who have joined the Facebook group Kiwi Inferno Storage, will hold a meeting in Lyall Bay on Wednesday night to discuss concerns about the way they have been treated.

Fowler said there were about 200 units affected by the fire and many didn't have insurance.

"Families have been given the runaround of when they could and couldn't come down and they're totally distressed."

Those living overseas who have been given a deadline to clear their possessions did not know what to do, Fowler said.

Fraser said the deadline of today had been imposed because some units had fallen to ground level during the fire and were blocking access to other storage facilities.

He said all the customers given a deadline of today had visited the site over the weekend. The company was not demanding rent payments from people affected and would be processing rent refunds from tomorrow where appropriate.

Meanwhile, police were still making inquiries about a man they believe may have carried petrol into the building shortly before it caught fire.

Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Ferguson said the suspect had not forced entry and the arson appeared to be planned.

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