19 Feb 2020

Quake risk: Work under way to relocate Bowen House politicians, staff

1:02 pm on 19 February 2020

Six hundred ministers, MPs and staff will be moved out of a high-rise near the Beehive that's judged to be an earthquake risk.

Bowen House in Wellington

It will be much easier to earthquake strengthen Bowen House in Wellington if it is unoccupied, Parliamentary Service says. Photo: Google Maps

Parliamentary Service is trying to find the space for them all, 10 months after the warning flag from engineers went up on the 22-storey Bowen House, rated at 40 percent of the New Building Standard.

"The decision has been made that 40 percent is not an acceptable standard for medium to long-term occupation. It is also much quicker and easier to remediate an unoccupied building," the service said in a statement.

There wasn't enough space on the main parliamentary precinct for all those to be moved out, so MPs, ministers and political parties would get first dibs on that.

"We are currently trying to source leased space off precinct (but within a close walking distance to Parliament) for those we cannot fit on the main precinct.

"Moves will begin once suitable spaces are secured and developed. In some instances this will take a number of months."

The detailed seismic assessment done by Beca on Bowen House had incorporated the latest knowledge from the engineering "Yellow Book" - new guidelines for assessing common types of concrete floors and how well they are connected to the walls, developed due to the failures discovered after Statistics House in Wellington failed in the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake.

In November Speaker Trevor Mallard said while the building was not earthquake prone, and no mandatory work was required, the building would be vacated in a controlled, managed way, to enable strengthening work to take place.

The building is leased by the government.

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