The demolition of a quake-damaged Wellington office tower has revealed the extent of alleged illegal tenancies in the building.

The office at 61 Molesworth St was so badly damaged in the 7.8 Kaikoura quake that not even emergency personnel were allowed inside.

Demolition has now started on the building, using an 85-tonne CAT 385 "ultra-high-reach" excavator.

As the machine has torn away the concrete and metal sides of the office building, officials have had their first chance to view from afar, and see how many rooms were inhabited in illegal residential tenancies.

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Wellington City Council spokesperson Richard MacLean says it now appears tenants were living on up to four floors.

That figure had long been rumoured, but couldn't be confirmed with nobody able to go inside the condemned building.

"As far as we know it was the first floor, the eighth floor, and then there's a bit of disagreement about whether the fourth and fifth floors were being used," Mr MacLean said.

As the
As the "ultra-high-reach" excavator has torn away the sides of the office building, officials have had their first chance to see how many rooms were inhabited. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It's still not confirmed just how many people were living across the various floors, as only two tenants have approached the council's welfare team for help.

"It's probably not even clear to [PrimeProperty Group] how many people were living there at any given time," he said.

"It's a mystery who some of the people were who were living in the building. Whether PrimeProperty has any records remains to be seen."

The building was meant to be a vacant office block, and was not cleared for residential use.

Wellington City Council emergency welfare manager Jenny Rains said they've only been able to contact two households from the building.

"In this one we didn't have contact with the tenants before, so it's really only if they get in touch with us afterwards. Then we can assist them.

"We only knew of other tenancies when we talked to the one family, and they said there were other tenancies there as well."

The building at 61 Moleworth St was meant to be a vacant office block, and was not cleared for residential use. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The building at 61 Moleworth St was meant to be a vacant office block, and was not cleared for residential use. Photo / Mark Mitchell

One of those families has spoken out, with Olive and Ernest Mape saying they were paying rent of $300 a week to live in the building. They have been unable to get insurance because the building wasn't zoned for them to be living in it.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Tenancy Compliance and Investigation team has launched an inquiry into the tenancies, which is ongoing.

Property managers PrimeProperty Group did not return calls for comment.