The building that houses the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in central Wellington is closed until further notice after the discovery of asbestos on one level.

The bank's essential operations, such as financial markets, were being done from the bank's Auckland premises and were not affected, the bank said in a statement.

A small trace of asbestos was discovered on level 1 yesterday.

Ceiling tiles removed on level four of the Reserve Bank of NZ Building. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Ceiling tiles removed on level four of the Reserve Bank of NZ Building. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"We undertook an air test on level 1 and have since learned that this is clear, and appropriate remedial action has been taken on this level," Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr said.

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"However, we understand that, because of the age of the building, asbestos must be presumed to be present. For that reason, we periodically conduct air monitoring across the building to ensure levels remain below the allowable trace level of 0.01 fibres per millilitre of air."

The Reserve Bank was evacuated after asbestos was found in the building. Photo / Mark MItchell
The Reserve Bank was evacuated after asbestos was found in the building. Photo / Mark MItchell

As a precaution the bank had closed the building until it was confirmed that there was no risk to human health and remediation had been carried out.

Staff left this afternoon.

A spokesman said it was not known when the building would be cleared for staff to return.
It was hoped there would be an update tomorrow.

The spokesman said many staff were able to work remotely from home and essential services would continue to operate from Auckland.

The 14-storey building at No 2 The Terrace, across the road from Parliament, also houses the Parliamentary Counsel office, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, State Services Commission and the Defence Force.

Other tenants of the building had been informed and had made their own arrangements.