More than 200 council staff will be moved out of Wellington Town Hall and the adjoining Municipal Office Building while $30 million of earthquake-strengthening work is done.
Warning notices have been posted at the main entrances to both buildings, and anyone booking or attending an event at the 107-year-old town hall will be told there is a risk that it could collapse in a moderate-sized shake.
The brick building is due to be used to show live screenings of this weekend's Rugby World Cup quarterfinals action, with each game expected to attract up to 1400 fans.
Wellington City Council property director Greg Orchard said yesterday that it would be made clear to anyone entering that the building was earthquake-prone.
"We do not want to close the building down until it is necessary for construction work to begin but, by the same token, we want users to be fully aware about the status of the building."
A council evaluation shows the town hall meets between 20 and 25 per cent of the earthquake standards required of a new building. The Building Act stipulates that all buildings must reach 34 per cent of the standards to be excluded from posing a risk during a moderate quake.
Orange warning stickers have been put on the adjoining seven-storey Municipal Office Building, home to about 200 council staff, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Vector Wellington Sinfonia.
The town hall, which holds a category 1 listing with the Historic Places Trust, does not have to be strengthened under the council's own policy, for another eight years. However, the Christchurch quakes have forced an acceleration of council planning.
It was decided to do the work earlier because of the building's importance to the city, Mr Orchard said. In the next two years it will be strengthened using a base isolation system, estimated to cost $20.3m and similar to that used in 1996 during the upgrade of Parliament Buildings.
That leaves about $10m to strengthen the municipal building. A further $12m has been budgeted by the council to be spent over the next eight years on strengthening the Opera House, the Basin Reserve grandstand and Thistle Hall.
Some initial remedial work will begin on the municipal building in January to raise it above the 34 per cent threshold. More substantial work will follow over the next two years. 'We have taken advice on the things we need to do from a health and safety point of view ... for staff in both the MOB and Town Hall," Mr Orchard said.
"We are taking all reasonably practicable steps to protect staff. These include quake drills, tying down large items, specific warden training and general staff training and awareness-raising."
Wellington Venues chief executive Glenys Coughlan said the council would continue to provide alternative performance and conference venues in the city while the Town Hall was being strengthened. "We are fortunate we have a choice of performance venues including the Michael Fowler Centre and St James Theatre, and we are considering alternative conference and meeting spaces."
The council wanted to protect the acoustics in the town hall's main hall, which it said was "rated amongst the top 10 in the world".
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you always wear a helmet while cycling?Related story: Cyclists creative on cycle helmet waivers