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Statistics chief baffled by quake damage

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/11/2016

Wellington may need to reconsider building on reclaimed land after two buildings were extensively damaged by the latest Canterbury earthquake.

Statistics NZ's chief has told her staff she is baffled by how her agency's modern Wellington office block suffered so much damage in Monday's 7.5 magnitude quake.

Chief executive Liz MacPherson said it appeared Statistics House, located on CentrePort land on the Wellington waterfront, suffered structural damage to "one corner of the building, down the stadium end, partially affecting two floors".

She said in a Facebook message to staff that engineers had told her it could be anywhere from several months up to a year before staff could return to the building.

"Now it goes without saying that I am asking the same questions that I am sure you are asking, 'how is it a building that is as new as Stats House, with the code rating that it had, could suffer this sort of damage'," she said.

"I will continue asking those questions."

The impact on buildings on reclaimed land is something Wellington MP Grant Robertson says needs consideration.

"I think it's what they're built on that's the issue. I mean, it's reclaimed land and it's not necessarily got the same solidity as the rest of the CBD and that's the lesson that has to be learned and I think there will need to be an investigation into the long-term viability of building like that on that land," he said.

Building owner CentrePort said Statistics House will require more extensive inspections to accurately assess the damage.

Chief executive Derek Nind said two concrete beams had become separated from the building's exterior wall with part of the ground and first floor ceilings dislodging.

He said CentrePort had, in consultation with an engineer, just completed upgrades of the building's upper floors when the quake hit and these performed well.

Mr Nind said Shed 39, home to the Greater Wellington Regional Council, "also performed well thanks to a seismic upgrade in 2013, but suffered damage to the ground floor".

"Engineers will conduct further assessments in due course," he said.

Following the damage, a Greater Wellington Regional Council spokesman said he was uncertain when staff could return.

He said the offices had sustained superficial damage from shaking during the quake but faced a larger problem from subsidence underneath the building.

He said cracks had become visible in the property's car park concrete, while some office walls were no longer plumb with the ceilings.

CentrePort's Mr Nind also said the port suffered damage to some wharves and roadways with liquefaction and differential settlement in places.

He said staff were working to get the port operating again as early as practicable.

BNZ, which is also a tenant of CentrePort, said it did not expect staff to return to its Harbour Quays office this week.

"Understandably there has been damage to the building, things like cracks and fallen plasterboard and broken glass, which isn't unusual with a quake this size," a spokeswoman said.

"We're not expecting that our people will be back in the building this week."

The same property was also damaged in a 2013 quake.

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