Regis Perez Costelloe has been wearing his bear onesie since his family returned from the movies to find their Wellington home inside a cordon.

An office block on Molesworth St and within a decent stone's throw of the home will be pulled down after earthquakes damaged a major supporting beam.

The fire service saw photos of the damage on Tuesday evening and urgently evacuated surrounding buildings and homes, telling media the beam was fractured like a broken bone.

Thirteen-year-old Regis' mum Jayne Costelloe said the family had been at cheap Tuesdays at the movies when they returned home to find the cordon. There wasn't much time to grab possessions before leaving their home.


"We had firemen trailing us, one ran around behind me holding a bag - we had like two minutes. We got a real mishmash of things, we didn't get our toothbrushes, but we got the computer."

Today, the cordon was reduced on the advice of specialist engineers, meaning the family could finally return home.

"It's a relief," Jayne said. "I didn't really think that we would be allowed to go back so soon. People were talking eight months, maybe never."

Regis said he had been "homesick", agreeing that his onesie would go in the wash later today after being worn for three days. "Now," his mum added.

On Tuesday night the family stayed with a couple from the Anglican Church who had volunteered to put people up, and then stayed at the Thorndon Hotel.

Costelloe said the community's support had been crucial. Their puppy couldn't stay at the temporary accommodation, so she stopped at The Barking Lot dog daycare on Victoria St.

"I was with the dog and I thought, I can't catch the bus with the dog to these people's house in Brooklyn, so I took her in there and said 'Can I leave her here, I've got no money to pay you'. And they said, 'sure'."

Costelloe said their 120-year-old house rocked like "Captain Pugwash's Cabin" during the earthquake early on Monday morning. She wasn't overly worried about moving back in with the condemned office tower nearby.

Other residents are still unable to return home, but were allowed inside to get a few carefully picked belongings.

The group of about six were given a briefing by Civil Defence officials before being escorted inside, including on what to do if a big aftershock hit.

Yesterday officials decided 61 Molesworth St would have to be "deconstructed" because of damage that had worsened in recent aftershocks.

The office building was empty at the time of Monday morning's earthquake, as it was being renovated.

Mark Sutherland owns the Barista Boys Thorndon coffee cart stationed outside the Red Cross building. It remains cordoned off, but Sutherland was allowed inside to grab items, including his laptop.

"It's been a pretty intense week, it's my first business that I've ever owned. So to have that cut off, it's been an interesting week trying to figure out what we're going to do. But we are pushing forward."

He said it was a relief to see his cart and know that it was safe. It was technically possible to put it on wheels and tow it out, but he hoped to re-open in the same spot.

"I've heard it's a matter of days, not weeks. But, again, it's just what I've heard. So we will see."

Not being open was a big financial strain, Sutherland said.

"It's nothing anyone could have planned for. For any business not being able to make money for over a week is quite hard, no matter who you are.

"It's a matter of relying on savings, family, friends. You know, we're Kiwis - we pull together and help each other out. It's what we do. No fears, we'll be right."