Wellington quake-strengthening priorities revisited by council

5:35 pm on 4 April 2019

The Wellington City Council is considering making changes to the number of structures it is classing as priority buildings for earthquake strengthening.

Traffic on Lambton Quay.

Photo: 123rf

Buildings identified as a priority building must be remediated in 7.5 years, which is half the normal allocated time.

To make a building a priority, it must be on a high traffic or emergency transport route, or be identified in the Building Act as a high priority building, such as a hospital emergency department or educational facility.

The council used Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) guidelines to set proposed high traffic routes in the city.

The Wellington City Council's City Strategy Committee received a report following consultation that recommends shortening or removing a number of Wellington streets currently deemed to be high traffic or emergency routes.

Some roads would be added as well.

However, the changes will mean the number of priority buildings drop from 333 to 300.

City Strategy Committee chair Iona Pannett said the feedback they received is that the current criteria is very broad.

"It's catching a whole lot people who might not have otherwise be caught up," she said.

Ms Pannett said the government has mandated these buildings to be strengthened anyway, so in some cases it will not make much difference, raising the question around why they were being regulated.

"In some cases this will cause hardship even if you're bringing your project one or two years forward, you're coming into a much more congested market and competing with other business owners to get the work done," she said.

She said the council is also continuing to advocate with central government to find funding to support the owners.

"They are going to spend many millions of dollars to get this work done, in some ways that's fair enough, it's private property, we live in an earthquake prone city.

"The problem is some of this is being done for public benefit and the public is not contributing much resource," she said.

The council will notify the building owners affected by the end of December.

One resident, who made a submission at today's City Strategy Meeting, was unhappy his street has been called a high traffic area in a bid to speed up earthquake strengthening work.

Egmont Street resident Christopher Butler said labelling the street a high traffic area went against what was trying to be achieved for the street.

"At the moment Egmont is one of those attractive laneways, which full marks to the council they've initiated, but there is still a residual traffic problem and we would like to restrict it and we want to make the lane less accessible to vehicles and more pedestrian friendly," he said.

His street is not one of the streets potentially being removed from the high traffic list.

Mr Butler said the work will disrupt residents on the street.

"We are working on a full seismic remediation programme for our building and we're looking at at least a year of having to be out of the building, that means the 17 apartments dwellers within the building are going to have to find somewhere else to live," he said.

He said he was also concerned there will be a huge added demand for engineers and construction workers, making the cost and availability more difficult.

Councillors were due to vote on the changes today, however it has now been delayed to next week.

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