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Flint site boss in the dark on ducts

Date

Louis Andrews

The fire at the New Acton precinct.

The fire at the New Acton precinct. Photo: Colin Vivian

The project manager for the Acton Hotel restoration was surprised to learn the contractor who installed kitchen exhaust ducting had little experience doing so, a court has heard.

The ACT Coroner's Court is holding an inquiry into the blaze which swept through the heritage-listed structure on June 23 last year.

The fire destroyed Flint restaurant, Parlour Wine Room and upstairs office space, as well as damaging the Diamant Hotel and Bicicletta Restaurant.

The aftermath of the fire at the New Acton precinct.

The aftermath of the fire at the New Acton precinct. Photo: Graham Tidy

The court has heard the fire started in ductwork attached to three appliances in Flint's kitchen, including a pizza oven. And the inquiry has also been told cleaning access panels marked on the designs were not installed on the ducting.

The missing panels have become a key issue at the inquest because investigators found combustible material in the ducts, prompting fears there could have been a fuel source to feed the fire.

Developers Molonglo Group, which owned the site, engaged local project managers Nikias Diamond to oversee the restoration project.

Damage done to Flint restaurant in the 2011 fire.

Damage done to Flint restaurant in the 2011 fire. Photo: Karleen Minney

Nikias Diamond contracted the ductwork to Millennium Heating and Cooling, an experienced air-conditioning installer.

But Millennium director Don Barr this week told the inquest he had little experience handling commercial kitchen ductwork and that if he had his time again, he wouldn't take the job.

Nikias Diamond partner George Diamond told the court on Thursday he was ''surprised'' to learn Mr Barr's group had little experience in that sort of work.

When asked by his lawyer, Steven Whybrow, Mr Diamond said he was unaware the access panels had been left off the final product until after the fire.

''Did anyone at any point bring to your attention any perceived problem with the ducting in relation to the lack of access panels?'' Mr Whybrow asked.

''No,'' Mr Diamond replied.

The hearing before Chief Coroner Lorraine Walker continues today.

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