Wellington city residents could be locked out for weeks - mayor

5:21 pm on 29 November 2016

It will be several weeks before Wellington residents evacuated from near a dangerous central-city car park will know if they will get the chance to go home, warns the city's mayor.

Parking building on Tory Street is in danger of collapse.

The cinema parking building that was found to be at risk of collapse. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Several buildings in the Wellington CBD remain empty, while others are gradually being cleared after being evacuated due to the 14 November earthquake.

Several shops and an apartment were sealed off by cordons, after a carpark near the Reading Cinema in Courtenay Place was found to be dangerous after the 7.8 magnitude quake.

Mayor Justin Lester said work was underway to shore up the car park to make it safe on a temporary basis, which would enable a final decision to be made on its long-term fate.

"The structural repair of the Reading carpark is an estimated two to four week job," he said.

"Then we will have to determine whether that building will have to come down.

"There is a good chance that it will have to come down but that will have to be determined by the engineers."

In the meantime, shop owners whose premises were sealed off behind safety cordons will be eligible for government support.

Courtenay Place, in central Wellington.

The cordon around the risky buildings Photo: RNZ / Megan Whelan

Reports have been trickling in on other buildings.

The Farmers Trading Company said it was still assessing its store in Cuba St and would be able to make a decision on re-opening after reviewing reports by engineers.

Owners of the multi storey NZ Post House on Waterloo Quay have revealed the building avoided structural problems, but internal damage compromised services like lighting, fire protection and air-conditioning.

A statement was due this afternoon on the Vodafone Building on Lambton Quay, while the long term fate of Statistics House on the waterfront remained unknown.

RNZ has kept a running list of all the buildings in Wellington affected since the 7.8 earthquake on 14 November. Check them on the map here.

Vodafone staff to return to building

Hundreds of Vodafone staff will return to their office building in central Wellington tomorrow, after the discovery of asbestos forced them out last week.

The company's 380 staff and contractors had to vacate the 15 storey Lambton House last Monday after a suspicious substance was found during quake checks.

Vodafone said after asbestos was found in one of its lift wells, the area was sealed off and decontaminated.

It said test results showed the building was now safe for workers.

Staff have been working remotely since they left the site.

Inter-island ferries back sailing

KiwiRail said all three inter-island ferries were now back sailing, but rail freight services were yet to resume.

Chief executive Peter Reidy said the Aratere resumed freight-only services early this morning, after repairs to the quake-damaged linkspan at Wellington's ferry terminal.

He said the linkspan was used to load and unload vehicles, and it was expected rail freight would be able to be loaded next week.

Liquefaction at Wellington port's container terminal.

Liquefaction at Wellington port's container terminal. Photo: Supplied / CentrePort

Interislander operations manager Mark Thompson said the South Island rail link was severed by the quake at Kaikoura, which meant freight would be transhipped from a depot in Blenheim.

"Rail have established the Blenheim train hub, so the trains will head to Spring Creek, and then the freight will be transhipped onto roads and then head to Christchurch."

Mr Thompson said final engineering clearance had been given for the damaged Picton terminal, which would be fully open from today.

The Aratere's first passenger sailing is expected to be today's 5.45pm crossing from Wellington.

View RNZ's full coverage of the earthquakes here.

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