Dilemma over buildings a 'bombshell'

By Don Farmer -
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Initial assessments show six Land Trust Masterton owned business buildings have failed to reach earthquake safety standards.
Initial assessments show six Land Trust Masterton owned business buildings have failed to reach earthquake safety standards.

News that initial assessments show six Land Trust Masterton owned business buildings have failed to reach earthquake safety standards came as a "bombshell" to long-time trustee Chris Peterson.

Mr Peterson, who is also a Masterton District councillor, said yesterday the issue would be "on the minds of all trustees" and would certainly be raised at the next trustees meeting.

"You can bet your bottom dollar on that," he said.

Earlier this week it was revealed the six near-new businesses, four on Dixon St, one on Chapel St and the other on Queen St, were found to be well below new building standards with one being assessed at only 33 per cent of the required standard and the others from 34 per cent to 67 per cent.

Mr Peterson said it should be known that the findings had been made on an initial assessment, and that a more detailed inspection was in the pipeline.

"We are only at the beginning of the process, there's a lot of water to pass under the bridge yet.

"But if in the long term it proves to be what the initial assessment has found then it's a real bombshell, it's not what anyone wants to hear."

Lands Trust Masterton was advised by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) last month that the Institution of Professional Engineers (IPENZ) had asked it to review design documents for the buildings.

The trust agreed to the initial seismic assessment being commissioned.

This week trust general manager Andrew Croskery said the concerns related to engineering design and were not a "contractor to builder issue".

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson, who worked as an accountant for IPENZ for seven years before becoming mayor, said she knew of the "tremendous amount of work that goes into maintaining the very highest standards" of engineering in New Zealand.

"If those standards have not been met in this case then it is incredibly disappointing as we all place huge trust in professional advice.

"I know MBIE is awaiting a detailed structural assessment of the buildings in question, and once that is available those affected need to pull together to find the best solution for Masterton," she said.

The design engineering for all six businesses was done by a firm outside Wairarapa, as were peer reviews.

The principal of the firm of consulting engineers that did the work on the design of the buildings was contacted yesterday while overseas and did not know of the news story published this week on the plight of the buildings.

He is due to return to New Zealand next week and is expected to make some comment.

Yesterday discussions with the consulting engineers said to be responsible for peer reviews resulted in a debate over whether any of the buildings had been peer reviewed as such.

The firm claimed screening of applications prior to advising Masterton District Council that it could accept documents as a basis for issuing building consents was not a "peer review".

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