Wellington council defends quake-strengthening timeframe

2:10 pm on 11 February 2017

Wellington City Council is defending its tight time frame for getting urgent seismic tests done on 80 buildings in the city.

Intercontinental Hotel, Asteron building, in Wellington.

The Intercontinental Hotel and Asteron building were both on the list of 80 buildings that requires additional seismic assessments. Photo: Google Maps / RNZ

The 80 were told in December to do the job, because of the Kaikōura earthquake, and were given just eight weeks to complete it.

The deadline was 5pm yesterday.

There were complaints at the time, and again this week, that the period allowed was not long enough for the work to be done.

In the end, 18 failed to complete the task within the deadline, and won extensions of time.

A shortage of engineers to do the work got the blame.

But the chief resilience officer for Wellington City Council, Mike Mendonca, has defended his time frame.

"We are comfortable with it, those extensions are for seven or 14 days," he said.

"We had to make a balance between putting pressure on the building owners and the engineers, and public safety, so we made an aggressive time frame and we are comfortable with that."

Mr Mendonca said as well as the shortage of engineers, the discovery of asbestos in some places caused delays.

He said there were now 54 reports in council hands to be dealt with.

Besides the 18 extensions, eight buildings were set aside because their problems were obvious, such as Statistics House.

Mr Mendonca expected to be able to tell the public more by Tuesday or Wednesday.

The companies that were granted extensions have not been named.

But property developer Maurice Clark confirmed his project at 143 Willis St was one of them.

He got an extra two weeks for the job to be finished.

The original list of 80 included well-known landmarks such as the Intercontinental Hotel and David Jones.

The demand for special assessments by the 80 building owners was one of just several requirements placed on Wellington building owners.

Another is the need to tie back parapets and unreinforced masonry within a year.

The council has also pledged to reduce the amount of time available for people to strengthen earthquake-prone buildings.

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