Housing NZ awaits quake test results of buildings

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 12:00 24/01/2014

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The fate of Palmerston North's 21 earthquake-prone state houses is unlikely to be known before the end of March.

Housing New Zealand wants to analyse the results of tests conducted on two houses in Upper Hutt before it decides what to do with the earthquake-prone houses.

Seventy people were relocated from the 21 houses last year after Housing NZ found the buildings posed an earthquake risk.

Housing NZ property services general manager Marcus Bosch said yesterday the agency had worked hard to relocate the tenants in safer properties in the city.

Housing Minister Nick Smith said in October all earthquake-prone houses across the country would be strengthened by the end of this year.

Housing NZ said at the time a decision on the vacated houses in Palmerston North, which faced the possibility of demolition, would be made the following month.

However, Mr Bosch said yesterday a decision on the future of buildings the agency had not yet strengthened depended on the outcome of further tests conducted last year.

"Strengthening is expensive," he said. "To ensure we make the right decisions around doing this work we have also recently conducted an innovative force test."

Fairfax reported in November that the test, performed on two houses in Upper Hutt, involved using two Western Star rigs. Each was equipped with hydraulic rams capable of pulling about 100 tonnes. These were used for pulling a house in opposite directions to simulate the strain an earthquake would place on it.

"We will use the results from this test to determine the future of the buildings we have yet to strengthen," Mr Bosch said.

"This decision will also consider demand and the current housing stock we have available in an area. Results are expected at the end of March."

Manawatu Tenants Union spokesman Kevin Reilly said he had been expecting a decision on the 21 houses next month.

"I just hope these houses are going to be used, that they pass their stress test so they can be used, because there are people who can use them," Mr Reilly said.

"The demand's here. The people in them were asked to leave. They were not vacant to start with."

He said there were many people his agency worked with who would be happy to live in the houses, and the fact that he had recently had difficulty with placing some clients in a home indicated that there was demand for housing.

Housing NZ said it had 1520 homes in Palmerston North, and there were 34 people on the waiting list for homes in Palmerston North, Levin and Whanganui.

"We have enough homes to house people in need on an ongoing basis," Mr Bosch said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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