Evacuated Wellington building had cracked in previous earthquake

By Georgia Nelson

The latest Wellington office building evacuated because of earthquake damage suffered cracks three years ago in the Seddon earthquake, it has been revealed.

Office workers are being turned away from the Asteron Centre on Featherston St this morning.

The 17-storey building, which is home to Inland Revenue, the Civil Aviation Authority, Suncorp and Callaghan Innovation, houses about 2500 workers. It is the latest to be evacuated in the capital because of safety concerns after last week's earthquake.

This morning, in the space of half an hour, at least six people were turned away from the building.

Some worked in the building and didn't know it was closed. Others used the foyer as a short cut to the Mojo coffee shop next door.

A security guard told people the building was being checked and would likely reopen in two days.

Shops on either side of the building - a McDonald's, pharmacy and cafe - are open.

The only visible sign of damage is a broken glass panel on the ground floor, which has been boarded up and cordoned off.

A Wellington City Council spokesman last night said the evacuation of the building was precautionary after engineers found damage in a stairwell.

He said the damage could mean there was no safe way to evacuate the building in another significant earthquake.

Today it emerged that cracks in the building had been known about since the 2013 Seddon quake.

Property developer Mark Dunajtschik, a shareholder and director in One Featherston, told Fairfax there were "no new cracks" in the building.

A structural engineer survey found the building was safe after the Seddon quake, he said.

Dunajtschik was now focused on fixing problems so the tenants could reoccupy the building.

Wellington City City council building compliance and consents manager Mike Scott told Radio NZ the building was not in danger of collapsing.

The council did external checks on buildings after last Monday's 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura quake but found no concerns about the Asteron Centre building.

Insurance company Asteron's parent brand Suncorp said a further inspection of the Asteron Centre "raised some questions about the integrity of the building's stairwells" after last Monday's quake and series of aftershocks, Fairfax reported.

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"We have yet to sight the building report but, as a precautionary measure, we have notified all our people that the building is closed until further notice, and they should not come to work," a Suncorp spokeswoman said.

"We are working through the process to get a clear understanding of the building report, and any action we need to take."

- Newstalk ZB

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