Second Wgtn office block's use questioned

10:22 pm on 24 November 2016

A property company that housed a family in a Wellington office has said "there may have been a small number of people" living in another of its commercial buildings.

Prime Property Group chief executive Eyal Aharoni told Checkpoint with John Campbell the company "vacated" people from 142 Wakefield St before last week's earthquake.

The Wellington City Council and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) are investigating after Olive and Ernest Mape and their two children were found to be living in 61 Molesworth St when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit.

The commercial building could not be used for residential purposes, the council has said.

The 10-storey building, which contains asbestos, is under demolition because it could collapse in a strong aftershock. Surrounding buildings and homes were evacuated.

Eyal Aharoni of Prime Property Group.

Prime Property Group chief executive Eyal Aharoni Photo: LinkedIn

Mr Aharoni said it was "unfortunate" the Mape family would lose their possessions. He said one or two others lived in the building.

"There was a very small number of people living in Molesworth St and I'm not actually clear it was illegal - my lawyers are going to be checking.

"The building actually was legally to be occupied by thousands of office workers - we didn't put any person at risk. There were some mistakes that may have been done."

When asked if the company had put people in office space before, Mr Aharoni said, "this only happened on this occasion".

However, he went on to say "there may have been a small number of people" living at 142 Wakefield St, but they were not there when the earthquake hit.

"They had been asked to leave quite a few weeks before... they had been vacated."

When asked if the Wellington City Council had prosecuted Prime Property before, Mr Aharoni said: "Once, there was a prosecution against us for some breach, some vegetation or something. Some ... minor thing. Or maybe not minor."

RNZ is making inquiries into the breach.

Mr Aharoni said he had worked in the property business for 20 years.

"We are not responsible for the earthquake," he said.

142 Wakefield Street is on the Wellington City Council's list of earthquake-prone buildings (PDF, 168KB).

The Greater Wellington Regional Council moved out of the building in 2013, after engineering assessments found it met 30 percent of the relevant building code.

142 Wakefield Street, centre, was described in a recent real estate listing as

142 Wakefield St, centre, in Wellington's CBD Photo: Google Earth

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