Wellington Scoop

Communications and credibility

by Lindsay Shelton
The Hutt City Council said last night that the Queensgate cinemas and part of the carpark must be demolished. But initially the Queensgate management company didn’t seem so certain. It said a decision wouldn’t be made till till “later today.”

The council demolition order was clearly stated (“we will continue to work [with Queensgate] to ensure the affected building is demolished with as little disruption as possible”) in an overnight media release. The management’s initial procrastination was evident in a morning report from RNZ and on the Queensgate website, which stated at midday: “It is too early to say what steps will be taken in relation to the carpark and cinema building.”

Not till mid-afternoon was the seriousness of the situation accepted. And the Queensgate owners then announced: that

A contractor has been appointed to carry out the … demolition with urgency.

It’s the second cinema car park that has to be demolished. When demolition of the Wellington carpark building in the Reading cinema complex became necessary, all the other buildings in the complex were closed as well because, we were told, they were next to the unsafe carpark. The adjacent buildings were said to be structurally sound, but a statement from WREMO explained “we are taking a safety approach with this building as we don’t want to put people at risk.”

In Lower Hutt, it’s a different story. The Queensgate cinemas and adjacent car park have been similarly described as in danger of collapsing if there’s another quake, but 80 shops in the complex were being reopened today. It seems they’re not close to the condemned building. But an adjacent 70 shops will be staying closed till demolition has been completed. And two buildings in danger across the road have been forced to close, to the dismay of their owners.

As for the soon to be demolished cinema complex, it was in denial this afternoon, saying that it is closed “temporarily.”

This is a challenging time for communicators and communications, as was shown by the differing messages from Lower Hutt this morning.

There’ve been contradictions from the Regional Council. Its website stated yesterday that its Wellington office at Shed 39 in CentrePort was closed due to the earthquake. But there was a different story from council spokesman Stephen Heath in the DomPost, who said: “The executive leadership team and some support services have been working from the building since the earthquake.” Who do we believe?

With CentrePort, the issue has been a reluctance to admit there are problems. In its first press release on the 15th, the fact that there was damage to wharves was relegated to the two last sentences. The port company took a week before it revealed (on the 22nd) that its container cranes weren’t working and the container wharf had liquefaction problems. And only today did it state that its container wharf is out of action.

The Wellington City Council has run a more open communications policy – diligently releasing earthquake updates almost every day. Yesterday it announced three more demolitions, and gave details of the demolition in Molesworth Street. But it was trying a bit too hard with its release about a 2.7% increase in the city’s economy. After two weeks of almost daily revelations about structurally challenged buildings and thousands of workers being displaced as a consequence, this message of “good news” and “confidence” was a bit difficult to accept.

This article has been revised since it was first published, to include confirmation of the demolition at Queensgate.

1 comment:

  1. Traveller, 29. November 2016, 19:57

    Amazing. Event Cinemas continue to say online that their Queensgate multiplex is closed temporarily…a week after they announced that they are to demolish it.