Capital's first quake demolition may begin tomorrow

7:37 pm on 20 November 2016

Demolition of the first of Wellington's condemned quake damaged buildings may begin as early as tomorrow.

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61 Molesworth Street in Wellington. One of the building's main support beams snapped in half after Monday's magnitude 7.8 quake. Photo: RNZ / Mei Heron

Damage to the high rise at 61 Molesworth Street has left it at risk of collapse in a strong aftershock, and forced the evacuation of surrounding buildings and homes.

Wellington City Council's emergency operations centre spokesman Richard McLean said it was likely key contracts will be signed today and heavy machinery will be on site to begin demolition tomorrow.

"We've been talking with the property owner and various consultants today and so hopefully there'll be a confirmation before midday Sunday that work can start."

Mayor Justin Lester said rigging will go up by Wednesday to begin removing the area of greatest concern, the facade.

"We want to get these buildings down, we want to act swiftly, we want to be decisive and if they pose a potential future risk in the event of another earthquake, they've got to come down."

Mr Lester said the cordon around the building will not change while the facade is removed, but may be reduced once that has happened.

Services at Wellington Cathedral of St Pauls, which is right next to 61 Molesworth Street, have been moved to St Mark's School near the Basin Reserve for the next two weeks.

The other at risk building is the Reading carpark building near Courtenay Place, which will have to be stabilised before it can be knocked down.

The building's owners have been in discussions with the council about how best to remove it.

Richard MacLean said the building will be strengthened with a steel structure and possibly even kevlar wrapping around damaged concrete pillars.

"The thinking is that even though it sounds sort of counter-intuitive that you'd want to strengthen it then demolish, it will make for a more controlled demolition when the time comes. That work will obviously take probably a couple or three weeks or so."

Parking building on Tory Street is in danger of collapse.

Parking building on Tory Street is in danger of collapse. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Council is urging private landlords who have had their buildings checked by engineers to pass on the results.

Its chief executive Kevin Lavery said the council was yet to get a clear idea of just how many buildings had been assessed and where there might be problems needing attention.

Kevin Lavery said private landlords were required by law to inform the council of any structural damage.

Two dozen engineers will continue to keep an eye on buildings across the city over the weekend.

Kevin Lavery said three engineers sent down from Palmerston North were working alongside large contracting firms to ensure the work to buildings were safe.

"We have boosted our buildings team, we've brought in some local contractors, they're working over the weekend to keep an eye on any at risk structures in the CBD and if any issues emerge we'll act swiftly and deal with it."

Meanwhile, the closed Clifton Terrace carpark under Wellington's motorway was due to reopen on Monday.

Most of the car parks would be available, except for some in a small area where repairs were still being done.

The Transport Agency has reassured people the motorway itself is structurally sound.

Relief package for affected businesses?

The Wellington City Council will talk to the government this week about putting together a financial relief package for businesses affected by the earthquake

Mayor Justin Lester said business were already telling the council it was going to be tough especially for those inside safety cordons who did not have access to their premises, such as in Molesworth St.

He said others reported a downturn in trade with fewer customers in town.

The mayor said if those businesses were going to be closed for a few weeks, they may need help and the council will do its best to understand what it can do.

Mr Lester said those businesses needed to find out if their insurance can help, but for those left high and dry, the council will do what it can.

"We'll be talking to central government and look at a similar programme that may be able to be in place as was the case in Christchurch or Kaikoura. But we need to talk with them about that and we also need to understand how we as a council might be able to assist and contribute."

Justin Lester will be meeting with the government this week to discuss what can be done.

Hoax Warning

The police said they had been told of people going door to door in Kapiti, north of Wellington, claiming they were from the Earthquake Commission carrying out building inspections.

The police said these people were not genuine and EQC and the council were not conducting inspections.

People should call the police if they are approached about inspections.

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