A Wellington office block has been emptied of tenants after quake damage was discovered on its stairway.
Some tenants of Eagle Technology House claim the owner did not tell them of the risk.
The building has the same kind of stairwell as the Forsyth Barr building in Christchurch. It collapsed during the February 2011 quake, trapping dozens of people inside.
Eagle Technology House, in Victoria St, is owned by property investor Oyster Group, and has several tenants, including two government ministries.
Some tenants have said they became concerned about the damage to the stairs after the July 21 earthquake, despite safety assurances from the owner.
Eagle Technology chief executive Gary Langford said staff had noticed the landings and stairs were deformed by the quake.
Oyster had known about the stairwell being the same design as Forsyth Barr's since 2011, but tenants had learned this only after the Wellington quakes, he said.
"I have to say the tenants are not happy people . . . [Oyster] have known about the stair problem since the Christchurch earthquake and done nothing about it."
The building was closed for four days after the July quake but a walk-through inspection by engineers found it was possible to return. "We never received any advice the stairs were an issue until after the earthquake."
When the large aftershock on August 16 closed the building again, Oyster said it would reopen after a week, but extended this until September 9, he said.
"They said there had been damage to the stairwell."
FishServe chief executive Leslie Campbell said her staff had been worried about the stairs, prompting the company to move to temporary offices.
It has not decided whether to return. "Staff don't feel comfortable to be in the building," she said. "Oyster seem to be dealing with it. They are not particularly prompt at responding to direct questions but have been communicating with the tenants en masse."
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Ministry of Justice have also both moved out.
However, Oyster chief executive Mark Schiele said information about the stairs, including recommendations to strengthen then, were available to tenants.
Reports by engineering firm Spencer Holmes in March 2012 recommended strengthening the stairs but the company was awaiting the outcome of the Royal Commission Inquiry into the Canterbury quakes before making any decisions.
Since June, Oyster had made the March 2012 report available to tenants who requested it.
"We clearly advise tenants on issues of significance. Recommendations for further strengthening shouldn't be confused with works that need to be done," he said.
Some tenants had returned since September 9, but others were waiting for the stairwells to be permanently fixed. Oyster believes it will cost about $350,000.
The building is between 50 and 60 per cent of new building standard and not regarded as quake- prone.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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