Council building's structural integrity under question

By Ashleigh Collis

Mayor elect Michael Feyen (left) pictured with Ross Campbell. Photo / Supplied
Mayor elect Michael Feyen (left) pictured with Ross Campbell. Photo / Supplied

The Horowhenua mayor elect has decided he will not be sworn-in under the roof of the current Horowhenua District Council building and won't hold a council meeting in the building until an independent structural report has been completed.

The council's chief executive has meanwhile reassured staff and the public about the structural integrity of the building.

Mayor elect Michael Feyen said there was enough evidence to warrant a full inspection of the building.

Mr Feyen has held fears for the safety of the building for some months, once attending a meeting in March this year wearing a hard hard and hi-vis vest to highlight his concerns.

"The building is a health and safety risk, I know it is. There are cracks in it's foundations that you can easily drop a pen down. I want to be sure that councillors, members of the public and all staff that work in the building are going to be safe," said Mr Feyen.

Chief executive David Clapperton spoke at the council's monthly all-staff meeting in Chambers this morning, following Mr Feyen's public statements.

Mr Feyen claimed the building was an earthquake risk, and has called for reviews of the 2014 seismic assessment of the building and a 2016 report on the structural behaviour of the building.

"I give my categoric assurance, as I have done before, that this building is structurally safe and sound," Mr Clapperton said.

"We are operating in a building that meets the building code of compliance, as well as standards associated with the earthquake ratings, assessed in accordance with the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering Assessment and Improvement of the Structural Performance Buildings in Earthquakes 2006."

Mr Clapperton said a detailed seismic assessment of the building was completed by Opus in July 2014, and that report states the building was not earthquake-prone. The results of this assessment showed an earthquake rating of 86%, where all New Zealand buildings are required to meet a minimum level of 33%.

In February this year, the council commissioned another independent review by Wellington-based ISPS Consulting Engineers Ltd costing the council $135,000 according to Claperton.

In his report, ISPS structural engineer and director Manos Bairaktaris said the building was considered "safe for normal occupancy".

Mr Feyen said the February review shouldn't have cost $135,000.

"The reveiw was a "desktop job" with conclusions made based on the plans of the building without a on-site inspection. It was a complete waste of taxpayers money, council made the decision to do their second desktop report based on the design plans, they should have spent that money on a full onsite inspection," said Feyen.

Mr Clapperton said the two reports are publicly-available on the council's website www.horowhenua.govt.nz.

- Horowhenua Chronicle

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