Quake risk report closes Wellington buildings

  • 17/02/2012

By Emma Jolliff

Three Wellington classrooms were closed today at a primary school in Ngaio because of the risk they present in a big quake due to a new assessment of the quake risk in the capital.

Wellington has always been considered to have an earthquake risk but since the Christchurch earthquakes the council has had a renewed sense of urgency – issuing building owners with demands to either strengthen or demolish.

Yesterday Ngaio School was teeming with five-year-old activity. Today it is empty – evacuated because it has been deemed earthquake prone. It is the latest in a string of such quake-related building closures in Wellington. 

Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Andrew Hudson, says the concrete floor and walls are at risk of shear in a major earthquake and “that is an unacceptable level of risk”.

Three classrooms have been closed along with the hall and surrounding walkways.

The plan is to strengthen rather than demolish the buildings, and it is hoped the work will be complete by next term.

The closure comes as a new council report warns the economic impact of a major quake in Wellington could be as much as $37 billion.

Neville Brown, manager of Wellington City Council’s Earthquake Resilience, says the figure is based on known numbers from the Department of Building and Housing, Treasury and it is “relative in terms of what we know about the Christchurch rebuild costs”.

The report warns roads into and out of the city could be blocked by rubble from unreinforced masonry.

There are more than 430 such buildings in Wellington; 166 of them are heritage listed.

Strengthening private buildings to comply with the building code is likely to cost half a billion dollars.

A yellow ‘earthquake-prone’ sticker has gone up on the Basin Reserve's Museum Stand. The Basin Reserve Trust says no tickets in this stand will be sold for next month's test against South Africa until it has been assessed further.

A decision on whether the test will even go ahead at the Basin is yet to be made.

The council report also suggests a major earthquake could see core businesses and services, including the government, leave the city permanently.

Cuba Street is lined with heritage buildings and masonry facades, and one of its buildings has already been vacated.

It begs the question, if the buildings are too dangerous to be in, what about the risk to people using public areas in front of those buildings? Children use the playground and people walk past on their way to work.

The council told 3 News it is not feasible to close public thoroughfares because to do so would put many businesses out of business. It says pedestrians use these areas at their own risk.

3 News

source: newshub archive