Wellington Scoop

Quake-damaged Statistics House to be demolished; fate of land undecided


BusinessDesk report bv Sophie Boot
Centreport will demolish Wellington’s Statistics House on the Wellington waterfront because of damage the building sustained in the November 2016 Kaikōura earthquake.

In a statement, Centreport said the 12 year-old building’s insurers have decided the building is not economically viable to repair and it will now apply to the Wellington City Council for consents to safely demolish the five-storey office block.

A spokesperson said the future use of the land was yet to be determined, and Centreport hasn’t taken a decision yet whether to rebuild on that site, or to use it for other purposes.

In March, an investigation commissioned by the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation found the building performed unacceptably in the shaking and could have caused fatalities. Two floors of the building partially collapsed in the Nov. 14 earthquake, and the building was declared a no-go zone the next morning, with entry prohibited since. The nearby headquarters of the Greater Wellington Regional Council were also declared unsafe, as was the Bank of New Zealand’s Wellington headquarters, also on port land.

CentrePort was forced to suspend operations immediately following the Nov. 14 Kaikoura earthquake as it dealt with damage to its buildings and liquefaction. Since then it has been able to modify its operations to resume services such as ferries, oil terminals, log exports, break bulk cargo and cruise shipping.

The company reported a $35.7 million loss in the first half of its financial year due to earthquake damage, which it described as the biggest adverse event in its history.

The first-half result included $68.7 million of asset impairments, excluding land, due to the earthquake, and a $20.4 million hit to the value of its property. The value of its equity at Dec. 31 fell to $127 million, from $213 million at June 30 2016 as the value of port land was written down by $50 million.

The company said it had received $54 million in insurance proceeds to date and expected additional funds in the second half of the year to bolster its annual result. Centreport’s annual results are due this week.

When the independent report was released in March, Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said the government would amend the Concrete Structures Standard this year to ensure new buildings can cope with beam elongation during earthquakes, one of the factors found to have contributed to the partial failure of lower floor segments. Smith also said he had asked MBIE to report whether it needs additional powers under the Building Act to require building owners to follow up on problems.

News from Statistics NZ
CentrePort has confirmed that Statistics House on the Wellington waterfront will be demolished.

Government Statistician and Chief Executive, Liz MacPherson has welcomed an end to the uncertainty regarding the future of Statistics House in Wellington.

“This announcement by CentrePort means we can draw a line under our past connection with Statistics House,” Ms MacPherson said. “Stats NZ staff have been progressively moving on, both physically and mentally, from Statistics House after the quake 11 months ago.”

“We will be forever thankful that the quake happened just after midnight last November when nobody was in the building, rather than at midday during the work week,” she said.

Stats NZ was fully insured and is still working with insurers to determine a settlement.

“I’m glad that lessons have been learnt from the Kaikoura quake that will help make office buildings in New Zealand safer in future,” Ms MacPherson said.

Stats NZ staff have occupied other buildings in central Wellington since late 2016 and have leases in place for at least another year. The Government Property Group (GPG) is now looking more broadly at accommodation for Wellington-based agencies, including Stats NZ.

News from CentrePort
Statistics House will join the list of Wellington buildings that need to be demolished because of damage sustained in last November’s Kaikoura earthquake, now that insurers have decided the building is not economically viable to repair.

Having notified its shareholders and Statistics New Zealand of the decision, CentrePort will apply to the Wellington City Council for consents to safely demolish the five-storey office block.

“We’re pleased to have final certainty on the matter and will start planning for the building’s removal, working with our tenants, neighbours and other key stakeholders for its safe demolition,” Chief Executive Derek Nind says.

CentrePort is still working with its engineers and insurers on the status of the BNZ building.