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Cordons reduced in Wellington but plenty of work still to do on earthquake-damaged buildings

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Cordons have been reduced in Wellington but there is still a significant amount of work to be done on quake-damaged buildings.

Wellington City Council inspectors yesterday found 60 buildings of concern with signs of structural damage and 28 at risk of part of the building falling down following Monday's 7.8-magnitude quake.

Several of the buildings damaged weren't on the council's list of earthquake-prone buildings released earlier this month.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester says the former Deloitte building at 61 Molesworth St and Statistics House at 1 Harbour View Rd are the only buildings with lasting structural damage.

He refuted claims Wellingtonians had been told to get on with things too soon after the quake, saying buildings were cordoned off and there was no risk to public safety.

A cordon around the 61 Molesworth St building, which a family claims they were illegally living in, was reduced this morning.

The current cordon around 61 Molesworth St. Photo / Wellington City Council
The current cordon around 61 Molesworth St. Photo / Wellington City Council

Hawkestone St has reopened to traffic. Pedestrians can walk on the northern side of the street (the same side as the ACC building). Buildings around 61 Molesworth St remain closed.

Yesterday a decision was made to deconstruct the former Deloitte building, and planning is under way how best to do it.

Mayor Lester said it was "pretty unlikely" it would fall down during an aftershock.

A Council spokesman said while it had not been judged to be quake-prone, the council was aware it was empty and that the owner had been planning to strengthen it.

Other damaged buildings not on the quake-prone list were not assessed as they were built according to recent seismic engineering rules.

Olive and Ernest Mape say they had been illegally living in the former Deloitte building with their children.

"We thought it was the big one for Wellington, because it shook really bad. There were floor-to-ceiling cracks in our place and water pipes burst from the second floor," Ernest said.

The couple said they had been paying $300 a week to live in the building after being offered it by a property manager. They believed others were living there as well.

But the building owner, Eyal Aharoni, said yesterday no one was living there.

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Homes on Collina Ave, behind 61 Molesworth St, remain evacuated although access is possible if residents are accompanied by Usar, Welfare or Civil Defence staff.

The cordon on Tennyson St has been lifted, although the apartment building at 25 Tennyson St remains evacuated at the landlord's request until remediation work is completed.

Small sections of Featherston St remain closed, although the road is open to traffic, and Pipitea St, Lukes Lane and the area on the corner of Manners and Taranaki streets are closed to pedestrians because of building damage and repairs.

About 1000 workers are temporarily barred from returning to Wellington's Deloitte House until more extensive structural checks are made on the Brandon St building

The Defence Force's headquarters in Aitken St, built in 2007, and Statistics New Zealand's purpose-designed building on the waterfront, built in 2005, were also damaged.

Prime Minister John Key is calling for answers as to why they were among the worst hit.

"Defence House is a very new building, so some questions obviously need to be asked."

Key said officials did not yet know how many Government departments would need to been relocated because of quake damage. A full review of Government buildings was under way.

Mayor Lester told Newstalk ZB he had met with Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith to discuss building damage.

There would be work done to determine why there had been such significant damage to Statistics House, which met the Government's earthquake regulations, and possible improvements to those regulations.

Auckland University structural engineering Professor Jason Ingham said the Statistics House floor collapse never should have happened.

"That is not what the public should expect and that is not what this profession would expect," he told the Herald.

"If it had been a daytime event on Monday morning, instead of Sunday night, then it would have been quite plausible to expect that people would have been killed."

Nearly 200 structural engineers met in Wellington last night to share what they had learned from inspections and assessments.

Meanwhile, New Zealand First deputy leader and Defence spokesman Ron Mark has raised concerns about the country's national security as a result of the Defence Force and GSCB buildings being evacuated.

"This is highly serious because it means our national security is compromised."

He said he believed Government agencies should be moved from earthquake-prone Wellington and other centres to the provinces.

Minister of the GCSB and SIS Chris Finlayson said the damage to the spies' building was "superficial."

"I'm going to go over and have a look at it tomorrow and I hope it is going to be able to be occupied on Monday so that those excellent civil servants can continue to defend the realm."

He was not worried that the closure of the building since the earthquake had resulted in a hole in the intelligence agencies' work. "I'd relax, the realm is safe."

​GCSB and SIS staff had been working from other premises and remotely. 

Damaged buildings not on the council's earthquake-prone list

Former Deloitte building at 61 Molesworth St
The Defence Force HQ at 2-12 Aitken St
Statistics House at 1 Harbour View Rd
Tennyson apartment building at 25 Tennyson St
NEC House at 40 Taranaki St
BNZ building at 60 Waterloo Quay
Katherine Mansfield House at 25 Tinakori Rd
Figaro building at Malvina Major retirement village at 134 Burma Rd

- NZ Herald

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