Council won't use earthquake-risk stickers

Yellow stickers are unlikely to be seen on Palmerston North's earthquake-prone buildings warning the public of the risks.

Instead, the city council is using a provision in the Building Act to ensure that it is taking all practicable steps to ensure public safety.

Some key public buildings on the list of earthquake-prone sites include the civic administration building, Square Edge and Te Manawa.

The council's finance and performance committee on Monday recommended a programme of demolition and strengthening work to deal with them.

There is $1.2 million in this year's budget to start on the task, with an estimate of $8.7m in the draft Long Term Plan.

Cr Adrian Broad asked whether earthquake-prone buildings were safe to occupy, after seeing Wellington's St James Theatre yellow-stickered but still hosting shows.

Property manager John Brenkley said the council was not exposed to any legal risks in allowing earthquake-prone buildings to remain open.

The exception was the historic Keith St Power Station, which was initially assessed as meeting only 3 per cent of the new building standard, and had been closed to the public.

The power station society, which is keen to take over ownership of the building, believed the station was much stronger than that.

But Brenkley said given the extremely low rating, the council had to take all practicable steps to manage the risk that had been identified to comply with the Building Act.

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He agreed many desktop assessments of buildings had turned out to be conservative - such as the Fitzherbert Park grandstand.

After initially being identified as earthquake-prone, a follow-up showed it exceeded 34 per cent of the building standard, and could be removed from the list.

Another building with a very low rating is the garage at the council's Albert St depot.

It rates as an E, below 20 per cent of the new building standard and 25 times more likely than a fully compliant building to collapse in a quake.

There were measures in place to avoid staff working in the most risky parts, but the plan is to start upgrading it to 67 per cent of code from this year's budget.

Cr Leonie Hapeta said the council should not make too many decisions about building upgrades until new legislation became effective.

Brenkley said it was most likely to require buildings to be strengthened to 34 per cent of code or demolished within 15 years of their assessment.

Hapeta said this offered the council the prospect of a cheaper solution for the Te Manawa buildings than the $2.7m currently proposed to achieve 67 per cent of code.

That higher level was recommended because of the high rate of public use, and the heritage value of the community history collections it housed.

Demolition or dismantling of the old Rugby Museum in Cuba St and a Fitzherbert Ave house at Victoria Esplanade has been recommended to go ahead this year.

 - Manawatu Standard

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