21 Sep 2012

Most of 158 buildings unlikely to be in CTV league - Govt

10:33 pm on 21 September 2012

The Government says it is confident the majority of the 158 buildings identified as being potentially as weak as the CTV building which collapsed in Christchurch, killing 115 people, will be cleared as safe.

However, people will not be told if they are working in one for some months.

A nationwide review by the Building and Housing group at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment found the buildings may have the kind of concrete columns cited as a major factor in the collapse of the Canterbury Television Building.

Such columns are made of non-ductile reinforced gravity concrete, meaning they are not flexible and could break.

The review was triggered by lessons from the Canterbury earthquakes,

The ministry and city councils will not name the buildings, all of which were built between 1982 and 1995.

However, the agency has reluctantly issued to Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint a list of where most of the 158 buildings are.

As well as 59 in Wellington and 46 in Auckland, there are eight each in Hamilton and Rotorua, and six each in Whangarei and Christchurch.

The other 25 are scattered around smaller centres, for instance Napier, which has two.

Auckland has another 81 buildings where records are too patchy to tell if they have the columns, and Wellington six.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson told Checkpoint a list naming the buildings will be provided before Christmas once a thorough engineering assessment is completed.

He says this is because it is likely the vast bulk, if not all, of the buildings will pass under the current building code.

Don't jump to conclusions - engineer

A Wellington consultant structural engineer, Peter Johnstone, says people should not be jumping to conclusions over the buildings identified in the capital.

He says Christchurch buildings went through three times the load they were designed for, whereas Wellington buildings are designed to be twice as strong, because the area has always been considered a more seismic zone.

The Wellington City Council says the list is an advisory only. It is not releasing it publicly, as it does not want owners and occupants to worry that a building may be earthquake-prone when it may well be not.