Wellington Scoop

Carillon an earthquake risk because of its 74 heavy bells

carillon 2 RNZ

Report from RNZ
The National War Memorial Carillon in Wellington has been rated at just 15 percent of the earthquake code. The 45m-tall bell tower at Pukeahu Park has been closed since February as a quake risk.

A detailed seismic assessment has found the weakest link is around the 74 heavy bells at the top of the Carillon.

“The main problems identified in the detailed seismic assessment were with the bell frames,” Te Pae Mahara manager Brodie Stubbs said in a statement. “Now that we have a better understanding of the risks posed in an earthquake, we are exploring what options there might be to manage the risk to staff and the public in an acceptable way so that we can reopen the building.”

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage was at the same time exploring options for earthquake strengthening, he said.

The tower and Hall of Memories behind it had major spending on their seismic upgrade from 2014-18. The ministry did not specify the total amount.

The restored bells were put back in mid-2018.

“The Carillon was reopened in 2018 following refurbishment of the bell frame and some earthquake strengthening work,” the ministry said in February 2020.

Any building under 34 percent of the New Building Standard (NBS) is rated earthquake prone. At 15 percent, the war memorial is under a second key 20 percent threshold.

“If the building has an earthquake rating of less than 20 percent the risk of failure under seismic load is approximately more than 25 times the risk of failure for buildings that are 100 percent NBS,” the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says on its website.

The Wellington City Council told the ministry in August 2019 that an earthquake-prone building notice had to be put on the memorial. However, the ministry did not tell the public and did not close the building till February this year.

It said it did this as it worked through a draft of the detailed seismic assessment “confirming that the tower is earthquake prone”.

“Ideally we would want to strengthen the tower to that of a new building,” the ministry told RNZ in February.

Now Stubbs said the assessment “provides one option for the remediation work required”.

“This option has not yet been costed nor peer reviewed. We will be better placed to comment once these processes are complete.”

The ministry is getting a peer review of the assessment, which was finished in April.


  1. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 6. June 2020, 12:50

    Strengthening was done a few years ago! They must have known the weight of the bells. I know it’s not a WgtnCC asset or problem, but some questions need to be asked about the engineering industry’s competence in earthquake strengthening matters. [via twitter]

  2. Pseudopanax, 6. June 2020, 16:58

    Oh no! Trouble in Gotham City! The Joker (The Earthquake Industry) strikes again! Help! PLEASE can we retrain these engineers to do something useful … like going after Wilding Pines or Wallabies?

  3. John M, 7. June 2020, 0:03

    Please don’t tell the Council about this – streets and footpaths will be cordoned off for years, in fact the whole area will be deemed too dangerous. Anzac services will be cancelled indefinitely. Plans will be drawn up for a new far safer, one storey carillon with virtual bells and no doubt there will be prolonged debate as to where to put it. Many will want to retain the existing carillon but an expert flown in from Pisa will warn of an inevitable lean on the building if left on its current site. Sea level rise will need to be considered also so waterfront sites will be ruled out. The town belt has some attraction although the “friends of the town belt” will fight this, to save the last known breeding hole of a rare, very unique lizard which according to experts reacts very badly to the ringing of bells. So hold all tickets folks, this could be another cracker!

  4. James, 7. June 2020, 0:12

    Is the Ministry going to consult on providing ‘a’ carillon in the city?

  5. Robbie Dawson, 7. June 2020, 2:13

    Forget all the smart comments, it Is our National War Memorial. It honours the thousands of New Zealanders who lost their lives so that we could live/ speak freely. Get it done! No matter the cost!

  6. George Lazaridis, 7. June 2020, 9:29

    It’s a Grand Monument and it needs to be fixed soon. Don’t just ponder for ages, fix it whoever is in control. Like Robbie mentioned, it’s our National War Memorial and we need to keep it in perfect condition for ever.

  7. Kara, 7. June 2020, 15:17

    Interesting that the bells survived a 7.1, 6.5 and a 7.8 during the last 80 years.

  8. Rata, 7. June 2020, 19:56

    Go the way of the library – a series of small buildings across the city with one bell in each.