A major thoroughfare in central Auckland could remain closed for at least a week - and possibly considerably longer - while safety precautions are taken on an apartment building where a large panel was blown off in a storm.
An inspection of the building face this morning had revealed more loose panels, said Ian Harris, who represents the corporate body for repair works on the building.
The intention was to employ an abseil company to throw a net over the side of the building to ensure no more panels fell on to the street.
"We want to get it done today as fast as we possibly can," Harris said.
Auckland motorists and commuters faced significant delays this morning due to the closure of Victoria St West between Nelson St and Hobson St.
Nelson St is also closed to traffic from the Victoria St intersection to Fanshawe St
Early this morning, city-bound traffic coming off the Southern and Northwestern motorways clogged the intersection of Nelson St and Victoria St. From there traffic was down to a single lane and being diverted towards Victoria Park.
A crane arrived at the building in Victoria St just before 6am Friday to lift an expert up in a basket to inspect the face of the building and assess the risk of further debris falling on to the street below.
A manager for the crane firm, Teak Construction, told the Herald this morning that it was "very likely" scaffolding would have to be erected on the entire street frontage of the 42m-tall apartment building - a job that would normally take three weeks.
The manager, who did not want to be named, said the work could be sped up by using a crane and pulling out all stops, but it would take at least a week.
Talks are under way with a scaffolding company to prepare a contingency plan, he said.
The road would have to remain closed while the scaffolding was erected to provide a barrier for any falling debris, he said. Vehicles and the public would not be allowed in the area.
"It's a public safety issue," said the manager.
A spokesman for Auckland Transport said they expected to receive an engineer's report at about midday today.
"At this stage we do not know how long the closure will last."
Auckland Transport has warned CBD workers to leave their cars at home this morning but queues of traffic were already forming before 7am.
It is understood traffic management staff are allowing some vehicles to access lower Nelson St from Fanshawe St.
AT reports detours will be put in place for 75 bus services because of the closure.
Adding to problems this morning the Stanley Bay ferry services are cancelled due to a "vessel breakdown".
40kg panel fell from building
Emergency services were forced to close Victoria St West after a cladding panel was blown off the Victoria St apartment building yesterday.
A witness said she heard a "very loud bang", then saw dust fly up from behind a construction fence when the panel fell.
The panel fell off a bedroom on level 13, 36m above the ground.
It was 1.2m wide and 2m long and made of fibre cement, weighing 30 to 40kg, the crane firm manager said on Friday morning.
The Auckland apartment building is subject to $40 million of remedial work which began in March.