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More quake tests for Wellington buildings

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/12/2016 Dave Williams

The owners of 80 buildings in Wellington's CBD have been told they have to shell out thousands more for more extensive earthquake damage tests after problems were flagged with the waterfront Statistics New Zealand building.

Less than a week before the Christmas holiday period, the Wellington City Council has given the owners a deadline of February 10 to have the reports done, which will cost at least $5000 each.

The 80 buildings, already cleared by engineers, make up about 7 per cent of the capital's 1200 CBD structures. Some are now empty after the quake.

The testing has been sparked by preliminary findings from the government inquiry into what happened to the modern Stats NZ House, which suffered worse-than-expected damage following last month's Kaikoura earthquake.

The inquiry says with significant aftershocks expected, buildings between four and 16 storeys, with reinforced concrete frames and pre-cast concrete floors and on soft soil or ridgelines, should have closer scrutiny.

A recent law change means the council can compel building owners to do the inspections.

"It will be a tough deadline, we make no apology for that, we think safety first and in the circumstances it's not unreasonable," the council's Mike Mendoca said on Tuesday.

He emphasised the council was being cautious and there was no increased danger.

"We have no evidence at this point that there is any need to evacuate these buildings."

The council had apologised to building owners for the haste but felt moving quickly was best given the public interest.

It has released a public list of the 80 buildings but says the tests will not be made public, citing commercial sensitivity.

Auckland University school of engineer's Professor Ken Elwood says the Kaikoura quake may have potentially harmed the support of pre-cast floor units and well as overall integrity of the buildings.

Deformations of buildings could put supports under stress.

"So far we are seeing in the buildings that are being looked at there is some damage but looking safe," he said.

The testing may involve pulling up carpet to see if there are cracks in corners and pulling down ceiling tiles.

"But much of it is reasonably accessible."

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