NZ Post moves staff out of seismic risk building

Under threat: NZ Post have moved their staff out of the heritage central Post Office building in High St, Lower Hutt, because of the seismic risk.
Under threat: NZ Post have moved their staff out of the heritage central Post Office building in High St, Lower Hutt, because of the seismic risk.

Hard on the heels of closure of the Lower Hutt Town Hall for at least two years is news another high- profile Hutt building may be an earthquake risk.

New Zealand Post has moved its staff out of the landmark 1943 moderne-design Post Office building on the corner of High St and Andrews Ave.

The row of more than 150 private post boxes were abandoned on October 8, with new boxes set up across the road at No 25 Andrews Ave, where the seven sorting staff also now work.

NZ Post media advisor Jaimee Burke said a team of eight rural delivery workers have been relocated to other premises in Petone.

"We voluntarily relocated NZ Post operations from the building as [it] does not meet our internal seismic compliance standards set nationally for the buildings we occupy."

The three-storey post office building is not on Hutt City Council's lists of earthquake-risk buildings, though the adjacent Lyceum building, at 157-161 High St, is rated 'earthquake-prone', which means it must be strengthened by 2018.

Ms Burke said NZ Post is "assessing options" for the Post Office building and "will work through this with the tenants".

The post office - the central city's third since 1891 - was designed by Government architect John Thomas Mair. It is a category 2 building on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust register.

Of moderne design, incorporating elements of art deco, it was never intended to be solely occupied by a post office. The ground floor was also planned to be used by the railways bus office, with other government offices occupying the top floors. However, this never eventuated.

Today, the main tenant is a large Cash Converters store on the ground floor. The manager had no comment to make on Friday.

On Wednesday, the city council announced the town hall would be closed after it was found the planned temporary bracing of the internal walls was going to be too expensive. An initial estimate of less than $20,000 had blown out to three or four times that amount.

It was felt it was better to close the hall, and find a permanent solution as part of the civic precinct overhaul.

Work on the project, which includes the Town Hall, Horticultural Hall and council's administration block, is set to start in 12 months with a meeting planned for December to finalise designs.

Engineers confirmed although the hall has stood strong for more than 50 years, in a significant earthquake there is a high risk the east and west walls between the stage and seating balcony could be dangerous.

Mr Stallinger said as well as being too expensive, installing the temporary bracing would disrupt the use of the hall over coming weeks anyway.

"Closing the hall and working on a long-term solution to strengthen, modernise and reinvigorate not only the Town Hall but the entire civic precinct, is going to provide our city with facilities that are not only safer, but more suited to the immediate and future needs of our community," he said.

The adjacent Horticultural Hall can still be used. Only very large events in the past have required use of both halls.

Hutt News