Demolition is set to begin on 61 Molesworth St, a nine-storey building in central Wellington, a week after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
Part of the building was substantially damaged in the quake and there are concerns it may collapse.
A 110-tonne machine is being trucked up from Christchurch to deconstruct the building from top to bottom.
The process is expected to start later this week, once electricity and gas have been turned off.
"It is actually a relatively quiet process as it's a set of jaws that crunches the building down," says Wellington City Council building consents general manager Mike Scott.
"You won't be hearing huge jackhammer noises or anything like that".
Mr Scott says he's aware of at least three people who have been living in the building. They are being dealt with by the council's welfare team.
The council previously believed the commercial building was empty.
"There shouldn't have been residential tenants in that building," says Mayor Justin Lester. "It wasn't registered as a residential accommodation building."
He says the council will discuss this with the building owner.
Three properties at the rear of the building, a small part of a nearby cathedral, as well as the Red Cross and New Zealand Rugby headquarters will remain closed off until the main part of the building has been safely taken down.
A cordon is expected to remain in place for between two and four weeks around the Reading Cinemas carpark on Courtenay Pl until a structural repair is completed.