How prepared is Wellington?

Former Government Buildings, Wellington. Photo: Robyn Moore

This, the former Government Buildings and the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere, is mostly kauri – and not on the earthquake-prone register. It was painstakingly restored to former strength and resilience in the mid-1990s. Now the home of Victoria University’s Law School, Wellington. Photo: Robyn Moore

An interesting outcome from Stuff’s opinion poll (February 17 to 22, 2012) on the Wellington region’s earthquake preparedness. A Council report has identified more than 430 earthquake-prone buildings with un-reinforced masonry in Wellington city. It finds that these at-risk buildings are mainly located along strategic routes, compounding already identified issues of accessibility for lifeline and emergency services, in the event of a big earthquake in Wellington.

An earthquake-prone building is defined in government regulations
as a building with strength that is one-third or less than that required
for a new building on that site. This level is currently set by the seismic
loading standard (NZS 1170.5: 2004 – and see this IPENZ report). Wellington City Council’s Earthquake-prone Buildings Policy outlines how earthquake-prone buildings are identified and the timing allowed for property owners to either strengthen or demolish the building. In Wellington, the current policy applies to mainly commercial buildings and very few residential, as buildings used wholly or mainly for residential purposes are excluded, unless containing three or more household units and two or more storeys. The March 2012 list of Wellington’s earthquake-prone buildings, can be viewed here.

Here’s the Dompost story. And the Stuff opinion poll copied below.

How prepared is Wellington for a major quake?

Not prepared at all

5770 votes, 36.9%

Barely prepared

7407 votes, 47.3%

Reasonably prepared

2103 votes, 13.4%

Well prepared

366 votes, 2.3%

Total 15646 votes

Related news:

14 June 2012, Cost of the big one: $20b – In the event of a daytime fracturing of Wellington’s main active fault, at 7.6 magnitude, Wellington GNS’s new modelling software Risk Scape shows 600 buildings would suffer serious damage, with hundreds of people killed or injured and 29,000 displaced. Clean up costs could reach $20 billion (Dom Post/Stuff.co.nz).

7 June 2012, Wellington City Council rates will fund repair work on the following heritage buildings (Stuff.co.nz):

  • 1 Rintoul St, corner Riddiford St – $20,000 to assist in “heritage considerations” as part of seismic strengthening work.
  • The Jaycee Building in Willis St – $12,500 for seismic work to help bring walls and stairwells up to building standards.
  • Courtenay Place’s Adelphi Finance building – $18,750 to help preserve heritage values on the facade while strengthening work is done.
  • Strengthening work at 130 Riddiford St in Newtown – $10,000.
  • The Morgan Building in Cuba St – $18,000 to aid soundness and weather protection for heritage values during quake-strengthening work.
  • Buildings at 3A-3C Moxham Ave in Hataitai – $10,000 for strengthening and to help “ensure public safety and protect a main transport route”.
  • The building at 12 A and B Constable St in Newtown – $12,500 for strengthening work.
  • Wellington Downtown Backpackers at 1 Bunny St – $15,000 for infill masonry work to strengthen the building.

30 May 2012, ACC and IRD have made a hurried departure from their at-risk buildings, while GWRC staff are due to vacate their ‘brittle’ 1980s building opposite the Michael Fowler Centre.

31 March 2012, Demand for quake-safe properties – With more than 2000 Wellington office staff working in buildings that fail to meet even a third of the building standard for earthquake resilience, Colliers International say they are seeing a clear trend for businesses to move away from earthquake-prone buildings. People are looking for seismic integrity in their office space and while while there is, as yet, no earthquake grading system for buildings in the capital, Wellington City Council maintains a register of earthquake-prone buildings, which are less than 34 per cent of the building standard. Colliers’ Andrew Washington said that eliminating the earthquake-prone buildings on the council’s register would reduce the amount of net lettable space in the city by 60,000 square metres – the equivalent of eight rugby fields (Dom Post/Stuff.co.nz).

Photo: Robyn Moore

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