Govt investigating performance of Stats House, more buildings in Wellington evacuated

Damage at Statistics House

The government is investigating the performance of buildings including Statistics House following Monday morning's 7.8 magnitude earthquake, while more buildings have been cordoned off in central Wellington today.

"This investigation will focus on Statistics House to understand its performance and where there may be wider lessons for improved design," building and housing minister Nick Smith said.

Damage at Statistics NZ's Wellington headquarters has come under close scrutiny after the quake, with the building likely to be closed for up to a year. CentrePort, the building's owner, reported damage at some of its buildings and indicated there had been some liquefaction on its land, which includes Bank of New Zealand's Harbour Quays site, Customs New Zealand's office, and the Greater Wellington Regional Council's offices.

Smith said the vast bulk of Wellington buildings had performed well but there is scope for the investigation to be widened if more information comes to hand.

"It is important that people do not jump to incorrect conclusions on buildings' seismic performance from Monday's earthquake," Smith said. "The frequency of that quake particularly impacted on medium-height buildings but another earthquake or aftershock could more severely impact on low-rise buildings."

"The fact most low-rise earthquake-prone buildings did not suffer extensive damage reflects more on the type of earthquake than the building's overall seismic strength. There is no place for complacency and building owners need expert engineering advice on managing these risks."

Centreport chair Lachie Johnson said the building had not "pancaked", but floor sections of the building have separated away from the beams in some areas.

Smith said the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment) advised him that CentrePort and the Wellington City Council welcomed the investigation and "are fully committed to it".

"The key to reducing the significant risks New Zealand faces from earthquakes is ensuring we learn every lesson possible. This investigation will help this ongoing improvement in our seismic design standards," he said.

Earlier today, a building at 45-51 The Terrace was cordoned off, while the Archives New Zealand building, which houses the Treaty of Waitangi, was evacuated this afternoon following a visual report by an engineer.

Wellington city Mayor Justin Lester told a press conference the Reading carpark building on Courtenay Place, which was closed for an extended period after the 2013 quakes near Seddon, has significant structural damage. The building was going through earthquake strengthening recently and there has been damage. A cordon will be put in place as the work is undertaken, Lester said.

A 10-storey office block at 61 Molesworth Street is due to be demolished due to damage sustained in the shakes, with a cordon in place.

Lester said there was no indication of external damage to Wellington's town hall.


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Design issues , engineering issues and construction issues......

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