More quake-prone sites

Business as usual as investigations begin

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 24/10/2012

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The Fitzherbert Park grandstand, the Kelvin Grove crematorium and the historic Keith St power station have been added to the list of Palmerston North's earthquake-prone buildings.

The three council-owned buildings all stand at less than one-third of current building standards.

That makes them 10 to 25 times more likely to collapse in a medium-strength earthquake than buildings that measure fully up to code.

Issues were identified in initial assessments, which will be followed up within the next few months to detail the extent of the risks and necessary strengthening work.

Two other council buildings, the Square Edge and Albert St depot, were already on the list of more than 100 earthquake-prone buildings that was publicly released in May.

And the central administration building itself, while above code, will be subject to further study of the soil types at its foundations.

City council property manager John Brenkley said it would be business as usual for the occupants and users of the affected buildings, although some work practices had already been changed at the depot.

The most serious issues with the Square Edge were found in the buildings around the rear courtyard.

The tenants were aware of the assessment, and would continue their activities while further investigations were undertaken, but the future was uncertain.

"It is probably not going to be viable to bring those parts up to standard, but we need more information first," Mr Brenkley said.

The main part of the Square Edge, which is listed as a category 1 heritage building in the District Plan, was under scrutiny at the moment, with a report to the council expected in late November. The decision on whether it was feasible and affordable to strengthen it would depend on the findings of that report.

Councillors would be asked to make the call on its future.

The crematorium was below code on an initial assessment.

Mr Brenkley said further investigation was needed to understand which parts of the building were a problem - the chapel or crematorium itself - as modernisations had been done over the years.

That report was also expected to be available next month.

The Fitzherbert Park grandstand problems related to the changing rooms below the seating.

Its secondary assessment would begin early next year.

The timing coincides with a relatively quiet summer for Fitzherbert Park, which will not be hosting any first-class fixtures until improvements to irrigation, drainage and ground maintenance are completed.

The city council is spending $210,000 on fixing the grounds.

Manawatu Cricket Association general manager Neil Hood said he did not know about the grandstand's problems.

"But we might not play there at all this season, which might be helpful.

"If there are things to be done, and they can do them quickly in time for next summer, that might work well."

The Keith St power station, maintained as a piece of the city's heritage, would be subject to a secondary report by the end of the year.

The safety risks there were less, because it was the least-visited building on the council's list.

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The council is working to a 15- to 30-year timeframe for strengthening earthquake-prone buildings to meet two-thirds of the current building code.

That policy is likely to be reviewed next year in light of the final release of recommendations following inquiries into the Christchurch earthquakes.

- Manawatu Standard

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