Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Thousands of Wellington workers face more disruption

Thousands of central Wellington workers face an uncertain week as the clean-up from Monday's devastating 7.8 earthquake clean-up.

Engineers will today continue their inspections of damaged buildings in the CBD, with officials already confirming at least two of prominent city buildings will be demolished due to structural damage.

A third, the Reading carpark on Courtenay Pl, is also likely to be brought down.
In other quake developments yesterday:

• GeoNet confirmed the number of aftershock's which have rattled the upper South Island and Kaikoura had topped 3369 - including 238 in a 12-hour period yesterday,

• The number of people evacuated by the New Zealand Defence Force from Kaikoura had neared the 1000 mark

• About 100 residents of apartments next to the Reading carpark are still not allowed to return home,

• The Public Service Association has reminded members that they don't have to enter any building that hasn't passed an engineer's check,

• Cabinet pledged $1 million to the Kaikoura District Council for its recovery programme,

• The Government reveals plans for New Zealanders to get disaster warnings via their cellphones, and

• And an in open letter from John Key in today's Herald on Sunday, the PM has paid tribute to the resilience from residents in the quake-torn areas, and thanked those who have helped.

The reality of the quake will again be hammered home to central Wellington workers, with thousands unable to work from their office buildings which have suffered damage.

Others could join them in working from home with more checks to be carried out on an unspecified number of buildings.

Damage to the ground outside Westpac Stadium on the Wellington seafront following a 7.5 M earthquake. Photo / Craig Doolan
Damage to the ground outside Westpac Stadium on the Wellington seafront following a 7.5 M earthquake. Photo / Craig Doolan

Wellington mayor Justin Lester said council staff were working around the clock, proactively going out and looking at buildings with building owners to make sure they had "a full understanding of any potential future issues if we have any significant earthquakes."

Government organisations affected by the closure include the courts, the Ministry of Justice, Education, Primary Industries, Environment, Customs, Statistics New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, ACC, the GCSB and SIS, Crown Law, the Office of Treaty Settlements, some Public Defence Office (both part of the Ministry of Justice) staff, and the Ministry of Defence.

Freyberg House, where many of those departments are located, will reopen tomorrow.

More than 500 Statistics NZ staff are without an office after the quake caused serious structural damage to their port-owned building.

A spokesman said many of its staff were working from home, while a small IT team based in an inner-city hall was labouring around the clock to get their website, which had 2.9 million unique visits last year, back to full functionality.

Nearby Customs House is also closed until further notice.

About 100 staff have been working remotely since they were allowed into the building to grab their gear the day after the quake.

1 The Boulevard, Wellington, the building housing Statistics NZ, which was badly damaged by Monday's 7.5 earthquake. Photo / Mark Mitchell
1 The Boulevard, Wellington, the building housing Statistics NZ, which was badly damaged by Monday's 7.5 earthquake. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency head Chris Whelan said the city's strengths in sectors like professional services and tech meant staff had a high capacity for remote working.

"Businesses are opening up unused office space to people who aren't back in their buildings yet and co-working spaces are opening their doors," Whelan said.

Meanwhile, school will be out for about 550 students at Wellington Girls' College after structural engineers determined the stairs at both ends of Tower Block needed further investigation.

Jerome Sheppard, the Ministry of Education's head of the education infrastructure service, said the college was the only school affected by the quake.

"Most school buildings, including those in Wellington, are of lightweight timber framed construction, either single or two storeys and we know from 2011 they perform well in earthquakes."

All schools in Wellington which are over two storeys and of heavy construction were also checked after every significant quake as a precaution.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 01 Mar 2017 06:36:02 Processing Time: 694ms