Earthquake risk Just pack and go

By Roger Moroney

It was not the anniversary present Napier Citizens Advice Bureau co-ordinator Jenny Pearce was hoping for.

Along with the 30 volunteers who work out of the familiar and historic brick and tiled Memorial Square Community Rooms, she had to pack and leave yesterday.

"I started here in this role a year ago ... not exactly the anniversary I wanted."

Staff got the call to move out first thing on Thursday morning, from the Napier City Council.

The building had seriously failed an earthquake risk assessment, coming in at just 12 per cent - well short of the 33 per cent mark set by consultants.

"So we've had to go," Ms Pearce said, as she filled another box with files, books and papers.

"I didn't think the earthquake thing would fail - it's a solid building."

She thought the heavy tiled roof may have tipped the scales.

Napier City Council chief executive Neil Taylor said there was little doubt there was an issue in terms of safety.

"Engineers physically inspected this building - it was not done from plans." Engineers even X-rayed interior walls to check the structure.

"We are confident in the engineering report that it is seriously under 33 per cent."

Mr Taylor said he, too, believed the tiled roof had been a major factor and would be raising the issue as part of the council's response to getting it sorted.

An upgrade of the building had been part of the annual plan, but the extent of that upgrade and remedial work now had to be gone through.

The building was originally built in 1921, was wrecked in the 1931 earthquake and rebuilt in 1934.

"It is a landmark building in the city and we will be looking at every option we've got."

The one thing he did not want to see was demolition.

Mr Taylor said council was working with community groups who used the rooms besides Citizens Advice to help them find an alternative spot.

The closure was being treated as "temporary".

Ms Pearce said the shift was an emotional time for the volunteers - many of them having been involved with Citizens Advice for more than 20 years.

Mr Taylor said there was no firm time-frame for getting the building sorted, except that council wanted it to be "as soon as we can".

Citizens Advice has moved to rooms at the Community Hub in Raffles St and will re-open there from Tuesday.

Ms Pearce said people seeking help and advice in the meantime should call the 0800 367 222 assistance line.

Bev Bailey, a minister at the South Napier Spiritualist Church, said she "felt sick" on hearing the building was unsafe.

"The church has been meeting there for 40 years," Mrs Bailey said. "You can't tell me the engineers didn't know before now."

She said the congregation now had only four days to move to temporary premises in Greenmeadows East Hall.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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