Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Govt backs decisions not to 'red zone' Wellington after magnitude 7.8 quake

The Reading Cinema Car Park building in Wellington was cordoned off yesterday because of concerns it could collapse from quake damage. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Reading Cinema Car Park building in Wellington was cordoned off yesterday because of concerns it could collapse from quake damage. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee is criticising Wellington landlords for failing to provide information to tenants and officials about the safety of their buildings in the wake of Monday's earthquake.

Brownlee warned property owners that Civil Defence will crack down on those who fail to co-operate with the Wellington City Council and Government officials "at a time when we have an unfolding event".

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Brownlee also defended the council's decision to declare the central city safe so quickly after the quake.

The council's decision has been questioned after several buildings in the central city were later declared unsafe, evacuated, and cordoned off.

"There has been some concern about the fact that some buildings were inspected on Monday, open Tuesday but then ... a number have closed," Brownlee said.

He stressed that the number of Wellington buildings identified as a concern was relatively small. And after meeting with council officials, he was confident that they acted appropriately.

Brownlee said some of the buildings which had been evacuated were damaged in aftershocks, rather than in the main quake. Therefore they passed initial inspection but later failed engineering checks.

"You do get cumulative damage which changes from a first assessment," he said.

There was no justification for a city-wide cordon or a "red zone" similar to Christchurch after the 2011 quakes, he said.

The minister also said the council had run up against some uncooperative building owners during its inspections.

"One of the gaps that exists is the willingness of the private sector, particularly private sector landlords, to share ... information with Civil Defence and the Wellington City Council.

"I would simply remind them that there is an obligation on all landlords under the Health and Safety Act that they have to be mindful of.

"And secondly, where buildings are in a compromised state, it would be preferable that there is a cooperative environment."

He said Civil Defence had powers to act, "and they will - in the interests of public safety".

Brownlee said landlords were breaking the law if they did not hand over information to their tenants, and would be responsible for anything that happened to them.

- NZ Herald

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