New quake tests for 80 Wellington buildings

8:10 am on 20 December 2016

Owners of 80 buildings in Wellington are being ordered to do new earthquake checks, because the damage from last month's quake may be greater than previously thought.

Intercontinental Hotel, Asteron building, Wellington

Among the 80 buildings the council is ordering to be re-checked are the Intercontinental Hotel (left) and the Asteron Centre. Photo: Google Maps / RNZ

Buildings that will have to be checked include those on ridgelines as well as those on soft soil.

Also on the list are tower blocks which have been designed to sway, rather than remain rigid, despite flexibility being incorporated into many buildings specifically for earthquake safety.

The council's target list includes all the high-profile affected properties, such as Defence House, the Asteron Centre, Lambton Quay's Vodafone building, Revera House and the Wellington Central Library.

Some of these have been cleared since the 7.8 Kaikōura earthquake on 14 November, and people allowed back in.

Other prominent buildings on the list include the Intercontinental Hotel, Treasury, and Saatchi and Saatchi House.

Look at the full list of buildings here.

They will have until 10 February to complete the work.

The move follows findings from an investigation into damage to Statistics House on Wellington waterfront.

A letter from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said the partly-completed investigation had thrown up risk factors, including the size of buildings as well as their methods of construction.

Asteron Centre, 55 Featherston Street, Pipitea, Wellington 6011

Office workers returned to Asteron Centre, on 55 Featherston Street, last week. Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

Wellington's recovery manager Mike Mendonca said his council had been happy to take up the Ministry's comments and put them into effect.

"The ministry has provided us with technical advice around aspects of certain buildings. We need to take that seriously. There is an elevated risk of seismic activity in Wellington right now and we need to assure ourselves and the people of Wellington that our building stock is safe."

He told Morning Report the council was requiring inspections that would look thoroughly at the structure of the buildings.

"We will be looking for specific things that will require engineers to look under carpets, into corners of buildings, perhaps lift ceiling tiles and in some cases look behind gib."

New powers given to the council had allowed it to find out the level of inspections carried out on buildings, he said. It would not be difficult for owners to have their engineers do extra inspections.

Wellington Central Library

Wellington Central Library was inspected and re-opened after the 7.8 earthquake. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

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