Wellington City Council has begun stickering earthquake-prone buildings in the heart of the city, ordering buildings to be vacated or giving owners just a few months to strengthen or demolish them.
Final notices have been taped, or are about to be taped, to the front of nine buildings and the council is threatening to serve notices on a further 11 in a move prompted in part by the devastation and deaths caused by the Christchurch quakes.
Council building compliance manager Stephen Cody said the move followed years of inaction by building owners, who had been under notice for up to 30 years that their buildings would have to be strengthened or demolished.
Earthquake prone buildings:
114-116 Adelaide Rd, Mt Cook: Final notice.
132 Cuba St, Te Aro: Final notice.
240 Cuba St, Te Aro: Final notice.
240 The Esplanade, Island Bay: Final notice.
38-40 Ghunznee St, Te Aro: Final notice.
25 Hutt Rd, Pipitea: Final notice.
86 Kent Tce, Mt Victoria: Red stickered.
9 Martin Square, Te Aro: Demolition underway.
90 Mills Rd, Brooklyn: Strengthening consent in place.
83 Park Rd, Miramar: Red stickered.
129 Taranaki St, Te Aro: Demolition underway.
29 Wigan St, Te Aro: Final notice.
Notices setting a date for properties to be vacated were being posted on buildings where the council had not seen reasonable progress. One of the most prominent and well-patronised is tenanted by Ernesto cafe on the corner of Cuba and Ghuznee streets.
Its notice, posted next to the cafe door last Friday, gives warning that, unless the building is strengthened or demolished, it will have to be vacated by October 30. If that deadline is not met, a red sticker barring entry to the building can be issued.
Building owner Stephen Hawke said he had been talking to the council for a couple of years about strengthening the heritage-listed building as he wanted to bring it up to 100 per cent of the code.
"But we can't strengthen it within four months. I can only do what I can do – I'm not an architect, designer or engineer, I'm only the owner.
"If Christchurch hadn't happened, I'm sure the council would have been more relaxed."
Cafe owner Mike Marsland referred The Dominion Post to Mr Hawke, saying he hoped to find out more about what was in store when he read about it in today's paper. "We will move if he doesn't do what he has to do – clearly the council guys have had a gutsful."
Staff member Marie Groenendijk said she was not concerned about working in the building and, from what she had seen, it had not scared off customers.
However, colleague Evelyne Velazquez was anxious about the quake risk. "I'm worrying about it, but I'm worrying about my job also."
Patrons Brian and Sue Pidford and their daughter Bridget were unfazed about dining in a quake-risk building. "I'm not worried till it starts shaking and then I'll be out the door as fast as I can," Mr Pidford said.
Around the corner in Ghuznee St, the proprietors of the Bargain Mart and next door Ystilo are under notice to vacate by July 20 if the building is not demolished or strengthened. It is owned by Foodstuffs, which plans to demolish it to make way for a New World Metro.
Council built environment portfolio leader Iona Pannett said some of the buildings in the process of being red stickered had been under notice for up to 30 years and each had its own history.
In some cases, the issues were complex because owners were trying to develop heritage buildings. She was aware strengthening was costly and was all in favour of keeping heritage buildings – "but nobody is going to thank us if people get killed".
Council spokesman Richard MacLean said this was the first time the council had issued warning stickers as part of a programmed approach to deal with the earthquake risk. "It was always going to get to this stage at the end of this year or next year, but ... the Christchurch earthquakes have given us more reason to show a sense of urgency."
Strengthen or demolish? What the owners plan to do with their properties on Wellington City Council's list of earthquake-prone buildings.
129 Taranaki St, Te Aro: Demolition in progress Owner Maurice Clark bought the site of the old Murdoch pickle factory about three years ago, and says the building was already condemned then. Demolition began about three weeks ago. A temporary car park would be installed on the site until the market was right for his long-term redevelopment plans.
240 The Esplanade, Island Bay: Final notice issued Owner Haley Fenwick says she plans to demolish the building and, providing she can get resource consent, build a house there instead. "We already have the house plans drawn up, but if we cannot get the consent we will strengthen it." The building is home to Mamachari Bicycles, whose owners are upset at having to find other premises after July 20. "They are very upset because to them the building is perfect, but the city council has been waiting for me for years to do something."
240 Cuba St, Te Aro: Final notice Owner Neil Patel says his one-storey drycleaning business has been unfairly targeted by the council. He still wants to strengthen it to bring it up to standard, but says he has been affected by the economic climate.
83 Park Rd, Miramar: Red sticker Now vacant and heavily tagged, formerly home of the China Grill restaurant. Owner Perry Katsoulis says he will demolish the empty building as soon as the council decides what zone it is in. Then he could decide what to build there. He had been waiting for word from the council for four years. "Demolition, as simple as that. A lot of the older buildings, unless they are in a really good location they are not worth strengthening, because of the costs."
114-116 Adelaide Rd, Mt Cook: Final notice The old Tramway Hotel, now closed.
86 Kent Terrace, Mt Victoria: Red sticker Crown land - empty shops.
29 Wigan St, Te Aro: Final notice Owner Johnathan Bacon says he plans to pull the building down after the tenants left on July 22. He had owned it for two years, and had known it was earthquake-prone. He had not decided what to do with the section.
25 Hutt Rd, Pipitea: Final notice Owner Peter George would not say what he planned to do. "Whatever decision I make is between me and the council."
38-40 Ghuznee St, Te Aro: Final notice Owner Foodstuffs plans to demolish it to make way for a New World Metro.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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