Wellington Scoop

No safety concerns: Mayor and Mendonca give results of checks on CBD buildings

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said today that the city council has received detailed reports from 62 of the 80 building owners who were instructed to carry out targetted seismic safety assessments by last Friday.

The council has not yet published any information about the assessments.

But after a stand-up media briefing this morning, the DomPost reported that he said: “While damage has been identified, we have not received any information that gives us concern about public safety. Some of the damage found is minor, some of it more serious and will require repairs.”

Council resilience officer Mike Mendonca, also quoted by the DomPost, said any urgent work was underway and in some cases non-structural damage was highlighted – things like stairwells where plasterboard has been compromised and would need repairs for fire safety.

Report from BusinessDesk by Rebecca Howard
Engineering reports into a raft of Wellington buildings in the wake of the massive November earthquake have uncovered some damage but no threat to public safety, Wellington City Council officials said today.

Mayor Justin Lester said the reports have not signalled any major structural damage outside of the buildings that are already well known and he is “very comfortable” with the information they have received. So far the council has received reports from 62 of the 80 buildings required to carry out the study. Council’s chief resilience officer, Mike Mendonca, said around a third of the buildings sustained some damage “which is not surprising given the magnitude of the earthquake.” None, however, represent “a serious concern for us for public safety,” he said.

Late last year, the Wellington City Council ordered owners of 80 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 Feb. 10. The city used powers granted by legislation passed in Parliament under urgency and 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.

Lester said today that his council has granted a seven-to-14 day extension to 18 of the buildings. In some cases, the extension was granted because of the size of the building. Other building owners are carrying out more detailed assessments while some are having their reports peer reviewed.

Mendonca said the council does not anticipate having to take any action against any building owners for failing to comply as there has been “excellent cooperation” from all building owners.

Some of the damage that has been uncovered has been related to floors or external cladding. In all cases, repairs are planned or underway.

Both Lester and Mendonca said they were unable to provide specific details of individual building reports as those are confidential unless released by the building owner.

Wellington.Scoop – February 13
The Wellington City Council will tomorrow be giving a stand-up media briefing about the targeted building assessment process that it initiated following last November’s Kaikoura earthquake.

The briefing will be led by Mayor Justin Lester and the City Council’s Chief Resilience Officer, Mike Mendonca.

Under powers granted through the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 and following advice from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Council sent letters to the owners of 80 buildings that are four to 15 floors high, with reinforced-concrete structures (with a focus on precast floors), and built on soft soils with flexible design.

Building owners had till mid-January to acknowledge the letters and till last Friday to return their in-depth engineers’ reports to the Council.

Under the CDEM Act 2002 the specific details of individual building reports will remain confidential unless released by the building owner.

Wellington.Scoop – February 10
Today’s the final day for the owners of eighty CBD buildings to give the Wellington City Council the results of engineering reports assessing the seismic safety of their structures. But we may not be told the results.

The council says that under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, specific details of individual building reports will remain confidential unless released by the building owner. However it says it will give an overview of the results to the media next week. It expects to be reviewing the engineering reports over the weekend.

The assessments of eighty CBD buildings were ordered under new powers granted through the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 which followed the November earthquake,

The 80 buildings all have “certain attributes:” four to 15 floors high, reinforced-concrete structures (with a focus on precast floors), and built on soft soils with flexible design.

The list includes landmark buildings including the Amora Hotel, the West Plaza Hotel and the InterContinental Hotel, David Jones, Bowen House, the Todd Building, Lambton House (whose occupants include the head office of Vodaphone), Plimmer Tower (which contains the Travelodge), even the huge Asteron Centre (which was briefly closed after the November quake) and the Treasury Building.

Mike Mendonca, the Council’s Chief Resilience Officer, said yesterday: “We’ve required building owners to send us a comprehensive engineering assessment of their building so the Council can be confident in its assessments around public safety in the city.”

RNZ reports this morning that a prominent Wellington property developer, Maurice Clark, says the deadline was unrealistic.

“There will be some superficial examination done. People will report on those, but unless they are peer reviewed the interpretation of any damage that is found can be very suspect. The time is just not there for the engineers to consider all the matters that might arise from just one crack, and the implications that may have for the original design assumptions for the building. I think most people are going to apply for an extension.”


  1. Mikey, 14. February 2017, 12:20

    “We may not be told the results” well that sounds very WCC and not at all “transparent”.

  2. Michael Gibson, 14. February 2017, 17:55

    I wonder what councillors said when they discussed the official report on this at their committee meeting this morning and what the officers said at the meeting when they had got rid of the media. Why wasn’t the public allowed to hear? Why was the meeting held behind closed doors?

  3. City Lad, 14. February 2017, 22:13

    Immediately after the big November quake struck at midnight, Maurice Clark made on-sight inspections of his buildings taking him many hours to complete that same day. And I agree the time given to complete thorough inspections with a limited pool of structural engineers is unreasonable. Why the rush?