Freyberg House to be demolished due to earthquake damage

Freyberg House is to be demolished, AMP Capital has confirmed.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Freyberg House is to be demolished, AMP Capital has confirmed.

After months of speculation the owners of Defence House have confirmed the building, headquarters of the Ministry of Defence, is to be demolished.

The seven-storey building, which is just over a decade old, has been empty since the November 14 earthquake struck.

But its owner AMP Capital had been refusing to answer questions until Friday afternoon, confirming the building had "sustained significant damage".

While the building did not pose an immediate health and safety risk "the cost of repairs is not economically viable," AMP Capital said in a statement.

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News that the building is coming down has long been expected.

In mid-February New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said in Parliament that a decision to pull the building down had already been made.

A spokeswoman for AMP Capital declined to comment on the nature of the damage to the building, also known as Freyberg House.

The company had offered to rebuild the building to the specifications of the MoD and New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

Wellington City Council said AMP Capital had informed it of plans to pull down the building, but details of the project, and how it might impact traffic, would be considered as part of a resource consent process.

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In a statement, the NZDF said the loss of the building would be "sad" for the force.

"However, our people are what makes a headquarters – and we continue to work together to deliver for the NZDF and for New Zealand."

Since the quake staff who had worked in the building had been working from a variety of locations. NZDF said by the end of April, 900 staff from the force and the MoD would be working from the adjacent Freyberg Building.

The Public Services Association (PSA) welcomed the news.

"Since the earthquake, NZDF and MoD staff have been located in temporary premises across the region and this will allow them to get back to work and plan for the future," PSA national secretary Glenn Barclay said.

"We question why the decision on the building's future took so long, but realise this was in the hands of the landlords."

The future of a number of other modern buildings which were damaged in the quake remains unclear.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith announced an inquiry into the performance of CentrePort's commercial buildings in the earthquakes, with part of a floor in Statistics House collapsing, and BNZ's Harbour Quays building closed for the second time in three years due to earthquake damage.

The inquiry was expected to deliver a report on the buildings in February, however officials at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment now say the report will be received "by April". The timing of the release of the report is unknown.

Peters demanded "urgent widening" of Smith's inquiry following the confirmation on Friday.

"Defence House was designed by CCM Architects to the highest levels and yet was brought low by an earthquake not even centred on Wellington.

"That sets off alarm bells.

"We need honesty and not spin and frankly we are not getting it from this government or the building owners. 

"That is not acceptable and we expect statements next week in Parliament from [Prime Minister Bill] English and Smith."

* This story has been updated to remove suggestions the building may have been built on base isolators.

 - Stuff

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