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University building next to hospital staying closed for 3 years – quake risk

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The University of Otago’s main Wellington campus building next to Wellington Hospital in Newtown, which was suddenly closed last month over earthquake concerns, is likely to stay shut for three years.

The DomPost reports that the university has lost access to 7500 square metres of the 9000sqm it had been using as offices, laboratories, meeting rooms and teaching spaces, creating a “sizeable challenge”, the dean and head of campus professor William Levack said in a statement yesterday.

“Staff were informed last week that it is likely to be at least 2024 before the building is usable.”

The Wellington campus has 450 staff and 1020 students. Medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, pathology, physiotherapy, primary health care, psychological medicine, public health, radiation therapy and surgery and anaesthesia programmes are taught at the campus.

Statement from University of Otago Wellington Dean and Head of Campus Professor William Levack
The last month has been a time of challenge and uncertainty for all of us with a very large part of our Newtown campus closing due to a newly-identified earthquake risk. This was followed quickly by a sudden move to Alert Level 4.

It has been a huge upheaval for our team of 1,500 and I’d like to thank everyone for going above and beyond to keep our campus connected and as operational as possible given the restrictions.

While we continue to deal with the implications of the latest COVID outbreak, work on finding solutions to our accommodation situation continues.

Report from RNZ – August 12
The University of Otago has asked its staff and students on its Wellington campus to leave its main campus building due to a low seismic rating in an independent assessment.

Almost 1500 staff and students at University of Otago’s Wellington campus have been told been told to stay out of their main building because of the earthquake risk.

Built in the early 1970s, the campus is next to Wellington Hospital in Newtown and has been given a seismic rating of just 15 percent of the New Building Standard.

The university asked everyone to leave on Thursday while it investigates how to fix the problems.

Chief operating officer Stephen Willis said in the meantime staff and students will have to work and study from home for at least the next month.

The university is aware the move will be disruptive for staff and students. However, the risk to staff in the event of an earthquake is considered unacceptable, he said in a statement. “The health and safety of our students and staff is our first priority and is at the heart of this decision.”

University of Otago Wellington Dean and Head of Campus Professor William Levack said staff and students have taken the news as well as can be expected.

“It was a surprise. Our aim in the immediate future is to continue the research, teaching and studying which normally takes place in the building and to have clear answers for our people as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.

The hospital is not affected.

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