Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Quake inquest: Collapsed building 'one of the worst examples'

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A historic Christchurch building which collapsed in the February 22 earthquake, killing a Canadian tourist, had previously been described in a council survey as being, "one of the worst examples in Christchurch".

The revelation came today during the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission of Inquiry hearing into the collapse of the unreinforced masonry building that stretched from 753 to 759 Colombo St.

French Canadian Marielle Falardeau, 60, was crushed by falling masonry while shopping for toy-sheep souvenirs when the fatal magnitude-6.3 quake struck.

The hearing was told today that as early as 1992, 753 Colombo St was highlighted in a 'Hazardous Appendage Survey' as having a dangerous chimney, with the report adding that the building was "one of the worst examples in Christchurch".

Two years later, Christchurch City Council confirmed that it was "earthquake prone" and required strengthening work to make it safe.

Work was carried out on part of the building, but not all of it, over subsequent years.

It was green stickered after the September 4, 2010 quake after a basic engineering inspection despite some damage being reported to a rear concrete wall which had "pulled away" from a masonry wall.

However, the building owners, Church Property Trustees, were today quizzed about why they had not ordered more detailed inspections after the magnitude 7.1 jolt in September.

Church Property Trustees property manager Elizabeth Clarke told the hearing that if engineers had stressed a need for more detailed inspections then it would have been a priority.

But nothing more was done, and the building was not inspected after the magnitude 4.9 Boxing Day quake despite the city council issuing requests for building owners to order their own assessments.

Steve McCarthy, the city council's environmental policy and approvals manager, defended his organisation's decision not to inspect the building after December 26, 2010, saying: "We were in a position of trying to priorities our actions. It was a scaled down response."

He added: "Right through that period, we were experiencing aftershocks - this was a more serious one - but it was considered just another aftershock."

The hearing continues.

- APNZ

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