Wellington buildings still closed more than a week after the quake

The nine-storey building at 61 Molesworth Street, Wellington is in the early stages of being deconstructed. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
The nine-storey building at 61 Molesworth Street, Wellington is in the early stages of being deconstructed. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

More than a week after Wellington was rattled by the earthquake - many buildings including one of the lower North Island's biggest malls remain closed due to safety concerns.

And the people who were illegally living in Wellington's worst affected building at 61 Molesworth St have been told there is no chance of recovering their possessions due to the discovery of asbestos and because it was too unstable to enter.

Lower Hutt's Queensgate Shopping Centre was damaged in last Monday's quake and although it is not in danger of collapsing, engineers have said another big shake could damage it further.

Queensgate spokesman Rod MacKenzie said the strengthening work has been ordered urgently following the engineers' recommendations.

Only six of 180 stores have reopened since the quake and the mall's cinema complex also remains closed and the shopping is expected to progressively open this week.

Meanwhile, the British High Commission in Thorndon is closed for safety reasons following an engineer's report.

High Commissioner Jonathan Sinclair said they will work around the temporary closure as best they can.

Repairs to Wellington's Westpac Stadium are on track to be completed in time for Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood's concert on December 3.

Last weekend's Wellington Phoenix match at the stadium had to be postponed after engineers reported earthquake damage.

Burst water pipes and broken windows have already been replaced, stadium chief executive Shane Harmon said.

Wellington City Council's Civic Administration Building in Civic Square is also closed while engineers continue to assess it.

The six-storey building, which houses 450 council staff, a public service centre and iSite, moved in the earthquake but did not suffer any obvious serious structural damage.

Staff who usually work in the building are either using other council buildings or working from home.

The BNZ Harbour Quays building will be closed for months, while Farmers Cuba St, Deloitte House and Wellington High Court are among a number of buildings still waiting on assessments before re-opening.

The Customhouse Quay building will be out of action for months

Meanwhile, a 110 tonne excavator should start demolishing the city's most affected building in Molesworth St this week.

Wellington City Council manager of building compliance and consents Mike Scott said the nine-storey building will be demolished from the top down.

Jaw-like machinery will crunch the building down, in what he said was a relatively quiet process.

The building was built in the 1960s and asbestos had been discovered by contractors, which made the deconstruction more complicated.

Part of the cordon on Molesworth St could be lifted as soon as next week.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Tenancy Compliance Investigation team is investigating whether the building was being illegally used for residential accommodation.

Wellington mayor Justin Lester said he was aware of three residential tenancies in the building at the time, which has prompted Wellington MP Grant Robertson to ask what happened to the rent money the family were paying.

- NZ Herald

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