Paramount Cinema a quake risk?

REBECCA THOMSON
Last updated 11:42 19/07/2012
Paramount
FAIRFAX
Quake concerns: The Paramount Cinema has been strengthened, but is still on Wellington City Council's earthquake-prone buildings list.

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Paramount Cinema has been labelled a potential earthquake risk, but its owner says the building is safe.

Wellington City Council has issued the building's owner with a Section 124 notice, giving him 15 years to carry out quake- strengthening work.

However, Paramount Cinema building owner Alan Blundell said the building had been largely strengthened.

"I'm a bit annoyed at council, that they've done this," he said. "We've spent millions of dollars on strengthening and there are only a few small things left to do.

"We want businesses and the public who go there to know it is safe."

A Dunning Thorton structural engineering report states strengthening of the Paramount building was undertaken first in 1946 and then in 1960, when Wellington City Council owned it.

At the time a reinforced concrete floor, beams and columns were installed.

In 2004, additional shear walls were erected at the back of the ground floor and front of the first floor. Other strengthening work was also carried when two additional theatres were built.

Mr Blundell said a small portion of outstanding strengthening work needed to be completed and would be done within the 15-year timeframe.

Council built environment spokeswoman Iona Pannett said a desk-top evaluation of the building was carried out.

"We don't actually send out engineers to do an IEP [Initial Evaluation Process]. Engineers are too expensive," Ms Pannett said. "Building owners can then come back to us with their own engineer's report. That's part of the process."

Ms Pannett said it would be good if parts of a building could be listed as earthquake-prone, rather than a whole building, but that would require a change in legislation.

The Building Act requires that councils must ensure all earthquake-prone buildings are strengthened to meet the minimum prescribed standard or demolished.

By law, pre-1976 buildings must meet 33 per cent of the minimum standard for a new building.

The Paramount is one of about 300 buildings on the council's earthquake-prone buildings list. So far, 3000 Wellington buildings have been assessed by council engineers.

Low-risk buildings must be strengthened or demolished within 20 years, moderate-risk within 15 years and high-risk within 10 years.

The Paramount building was designed by James Bennie, and was constructed in 1916 by prison labour.

The first movie screened there was Less than the Dust, starring Mary Pickford. It is a category 2 heritage building.

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