Wellington Scoop

CentrePort faces its critics


by Lindsay Shelton
When the results of the investigation into earthquake damage to Statistics House were released on Friday, CentrePort was faced not only with criticism of a serious design flaw in its building but also with questions about why “critical” repair work had not been completed.

But rather than expressing any concern about the results, CentrePort instead “welcomed” the report’s conclusions and highlighted the finding that its damaged structure had complied with the Building Code of the day when it was built in 2005.

On this subject, when he released the report Building Minister Nick Smith was less forgiving:

“The performance of Statistics House in the Kaikōura earthquake was unacceptable and could have caused fatalities…. The building was designed to the industry practice of the time but this did not fully account for the effects of beam elongation during an earthquake, an issue that was deficient in the Concrete Structures Standard at the time of the design…A modern building like Statistics House should not have had life-threatening structural damage.”

Not a response that should have been “welcome” to CentrePort.

And as for strengthening work that hadn’t been completed, the response from CentrePort’s chief executive was not to give any explanation but only to say that the investigators “… acknowledge the effectiveness of the strengthening work we were working with our tenants to complete when the earthquake struck.”

Whereas more serious issues were summarised by MP Grant Robertson:

“The report …shows that in 2013 the owners of the building, Centreport, received a report that recommended as a ‘critical element’ strengthening floor units at the four corners of the building. This work had been completed on one floor by the time of November’s quake and that floor did not sustain damage. The work had not been done on the floors where the serious collapse occurred.

“Why had that work, identified as ‘critical’, not been done in the three years before November’s quake? Why were staff still working in the building when ‘critical’ work had not been fully completed? This could have had catastrophic consequences if people had been at work.”

And what of CentrePort’s tenants who might have been killed if the quake had happened during working hours? The Government Statistician Liz MacPherson says she hopes the findings of the investigation will prevent future failures of this kind:

“I remain forever grateful that the quake struck after midnight when no one was in Statistics House. It is my hope that CentrePort and their insurers can now accelerate decisions regarding the future of Statistics House. Staff who worked in the building are keen to know what’s going to happen.”

Concerns which CentrePort would do well to acknowledge.

For the owners and the occupiers of similar buildings, the report makes a serious and specific recommendation:

Existing buildings in the Wellington region (not just the Wellington City CBD) that have a similar design to Statistics House (buildings with precast floor systems and frames that may be affected by beam elongation) should be investigated as soon as possible to determine if precast floor seating problems exist as a result of the Kaikōura earthquake.


  1. Lindsay, 2. April 2017, 1:26

    A few hours after I’d written this article, more criticism of CentrePort arrived – this time from the PSA, which said its members working in Statistics House had not been told about the 2013 report which identified critical issues with the building. It wants an explanation from CentrePort about this “deeply concerning” lack of communication.

  2. City Lad, 2. April 2017, 2:29

    CentrePort, governed by the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s elected representatives, haw a lot to answer for on this one. I’ve been in that building on the ground floor where those concrete beams collapsed. Government Minister Nick Smith should keep his hands on the wheel and heads should roll.

  3. Tony Jansen, 2. April 2017, 17:56

    The Regional Council have let the CentrePort management do whatever they liked with no boundaries or governance.
    If any heads should roll it should be senior management at the Port as well as GWRC. But then we reelected most of the incumbents at the GWRC last year just so they could, as their first act, vote themselves a salary increase.
    If you want openness as well as accountability from either of these organizations, you’ll be waiting a long time.

  4. Mark Shanks, 3. April 2017, 7:43

    GWRC are recooking the books to come up with an extra $2m and borrow another $2m for the new financial year to offset the curtailment of dividends from CentrePort due to earthquake damage. And they have no idea when dividends will resume. It was always a poor return on investment and now it’s a major liability to the ratepayer. The poor decision makers continue to be paid handsomely however. Doesn’t seem right does it?

  5. Trish, 3. April 2017, 10:38

    In working to create a future for CentrePort, chief executive Derek Nind is operating under the shadow of a credibility problem. When shortly after the earthquake, various media were reporting that a floor in Stats House had collapsed he was insisting that the reports were incorrect. He tried to tell us it was just “a small part of the ceiling on the ground floor” that had fallen. Now he’s giving the impression that the container terminal will soon be back in action and cargo now diverted through other ports will soon be back to previous levels. Yeah right.

  6. Richard Keller, 4. April 2017, 23:32

    “an issue that was deficient in the Concrete Structures Standard at the time of the design.”

    Where had the design come from? Was it a new style design? Has it been in use elsewhere? What problems had been found with the design elsewhere?

  7. E Hampton, 5. April 2017, 14:26

    After the Christchurch earthquake, at a meeting at Clyde Quay School, we asked our councilor Iona Pannett which buildings in the CBD were built in the same way as the CTV building that cost so much life. The simple reply was that ‘that was commercial’. No information. Worrying.