28 Nov 2016

Parliamentary annex to be demolished

1:58 pm on 28 November 2016

A quake-prone annex at Parliament is to be demolished and two new buildings are planned, the Speaker has announced.

Pacific flags flying outside the New Zealand Parliament building in Wellington.

The building (not pictured), is adjacent to the Beehive and houses the parliamentary press gallery. Photo: RNZI/ Koroi Hawkins

The annex to be torn down houses the parliamentary press gallery, home to reporters form a range of news outlets.

The building, which was given an all-clear after the recent quakes, had been yellow-stickered as a result of the 2013 Seddon earthquakes.

It had an overall earthquake rating of 35 to 40 percent but parts fell short of that level. Parliament had been given until 2029 to strengthen or demolish it.

Demolition will take place from December 2017 and the building rebuilt, with two extra stories added to it, to house ministers.

A five-story building for MPs will be constructed on the carpark behind Parliament House linked to Parliament House by an air-bridge.

Speaker David Carter said Parliamentary Service had been assessing Parliament's future accommodation needs for nearly three years.

Accommodation of ministers, MPs and staff across various buildings, as at present, was considered expensive and posed security risks.

"The new build option outscored the others on a range of criteria including long-term savings, fit-for-purpose utilisation, safety and security and seismic performance.

"In light of the recent earthquake, I would like to point out that the new building will be base isolated, as is Parliament House and the Parliamentary Library.

"The remodelled press gallery will be built to the same rigorous earthquake safety designs as the Beehive. None of the Parliamentary precinct buildings suffered any structural damage at all in the recent earthquake."

Mr Carter said the whole project would cost at least $100 million.

But he said it would cost much less in the long run for Parliament to build new premises, than continue to lease Bowen House, where several MPs, ministers and parliamentary staff are based and whose lease is shortly up for renegotiation.

The announcement was made as many organisations in the press gallery had decided to evacuate the existing annex, because of safety concerns.

Mr Carter said the building was inspected in a detailed report in 2014, and while it was listed as earthquake prone, Wellington City Council deemed it to be a building that was safe to occupy.

Mr Carter said when the building was yellow-stickered there had been plans to have it strengthened - but work was also being done on an overall accommodation strategy. "There was little point strengthening a building if in 18 months we were going to pull it down."

The plan had cross-party support, with the exception of New Zealand First. It has in-principle approval from Cabinet and final decisions would be made in September 2017.

Seven buildings in the capital are to be demolished asa result of damage or risk following the 14 November earthquake. Work started today on the first, a Molesworth Street office block.

RNZ has kept a running list of all the buildings in Wellington affected since the 7.8 earthquake on 14 November. Check them on the map here.

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