Wellington City Council sets 'tight' timeframe for targeted assessments of 80 buildings

 While New Zealand is on holiday, engineers will have a busy time checking over Wellington buildings.

Wellington City Council has set a "tight" timeframe for the owners of 80 buildings to carry out additional structural checks following the Kaikoura earthquake.

The local authority has ordered owners of the buildings, which have similar characteristics to Statistics House on the Wellington waterfront that suffered damage and has been empty since the quake, to carry out more thorough checking by February 10. The city used powers granted by legislation passed in Parliament under urgency in response to the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura quake last month. The majority of the affected buildings are reinforced concrete buildings up to 15 storeys high, many of which are on soft, reclaimed land or ridgelines.

The inspections will be more thorough than the initial reviews done in the wake of the quake, which effectively shut down Wellington's CBD for several days as engineers checked the integrity of the central city's 1200 buildings. The assessments will cost about $5000 a site, paid by the building owner.

WCC recovery manager Mike Mendonca told a media briefing in Wellington that they had worked with the engineering community to set the timeframe but potential aftershocks heightened the risk to public safety.

"There is a limited supply of engineers," Mr Mendonca said. "While it will be tight, we're confident it will be done within the timeframe."

Last month the government launched an investigation into the performance of buildings including Statistics House, which came under scrutiny when quake damage closed it for up to a year, displacing staff and temporarily disrupting the agency's work. Other buildings in Wellington have also been closed, such as Bank of New Zealand's Harbour Quays site, and a handful, including the Reading Cinema carpark, face demolition.

A preliminary assessment from that investigation triggered council to order the targeted assessments, and building owners have until January 20 to acknowledge the council's letter.

Mendonca said building owners were largely responsible, accepting the need to act in the public safety. Insurers were also been briefed on the order, and hadn't raised any objections to it, he said.

(BusinessDesk)