Porirua's canopies to come down

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 11:00 17/07/2014
Canopie
ROSS GIBLIN / Fairfax NZ

UNDERCOVER WORK: Langi Mann outside her shop in Cobham Court, Porirua, in 2009. The 19-year-old canopies are now considered at risk of sagging in high winds, and city councilors will make a decision about their removal at a meeting today.

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Porirua's 19-year-old canopies will be taken down amid concerns they could fail in high winds.

City councillors voted to remove the three-storey canopies in Cobham Court at a committee meeting today. The options were to leave them up while a detailed design is quickly commissioned and a replacement produced; or immediately remove them and leave the space open until a replacement can be manufactured.

No decision has been made about a replacement.

The canopies have lasted nearly twice their expected lifespan, but a recent engineers' report found the fabric was at the end of its life, with surface cracking and holes near the peak that could cause them to fail in high winds.

The fabric near the peak had deteriorated to such an extent that a sample could not be taken for testing for fear it would cause the canopy to fail.

The report said failure could mean the canopies would sag into the frame and multiple sections would lose tension, compromising public safety and causing damage.

The committee recommended they be removed in the next few months.

Te Komiti chairperson Euon Murrell said it was clear the canopies were unlikely to cope with high winds for much longer.

"So for safety reasons, we agree that the canopies should come down as soon as possible although the final decision has yet to be signed off by full Council."

 

Any decisions about replacements would be decided later, with $200,000 budgeted for design work.

 

"There are better fabric options available today so any replacement canopies will have much higher light level penetration.  However, any final decision to replace the canopies is unlikely to be made until after the design work is completed over the next few months," he said.

 

A council report suggested commissioning a replacement with some clear fabric panels instead of white, which could allow more light into the area. It would cost $3 million to replace the canopies.

 

Yesterday Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett said the canopies were regularly maintained, but the level of deterioration had taken councillors by surprise.

Having the area exposed for a while would allow the council to gauge public opinion on replacement options, he said.

"A lot of retailers and users of the area will get a bit of a shock, myself included, as to what the area is like without the canopies. Twenty years is a long time, and a lot of us have forgotten how exposed that area is to the elements - we're about to find out."

Leggett said a decision could be made quickly if that was what retailers and the community wanted.

"If people are OK to take time and do it, then fine. If people say, no we've got to get it done, then we can act relatively quickly, but I would think there are months ahead where we'll be without cover there."

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