How is Wellington coping 100 days on from the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura quake? gallery video

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff.co.nz

The demolition of the quake-damaged Reading Cinema car park building, which began on January 4, is now its final stages. Wellington City Council project manager Phil Becker says officials hope to reopen the cordoned-off area in the second or third week of March.

One hundred days on from the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura quake, Wellington is still without assurances it's 100 per cent safe.

Buildings remain closed as safety tests are ongoing, and demolition work is continuing at Reading Cinema carpark in the central city and Queensgate Mall in Lower Hutt.

About 200 people are still unable to return home while the Reading demolition continues, and thousands of workers have been relocated to new office spaces or are working from home while buildings are checked, double checked, and strengthened.

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It took deconstruction teams 10 weeks to bring down 61 Molesworth St in Thorndon, Wellington. During that time, a cordon put up around the condemned building displaced several local businesses and residents. After the quake, it was also revealed the commercial office block, which used to be known as Deloitte House, was being used for residential purposes.

The work begins at 61 Molesworth St, Thorndon, Wellington, 23/11/2016.

61 Molesworth St, Thorndon, Wellington, 02/12/2016.

61 Molesworth St, Thorndon, Wellington, 17/12/2016.

61 Molesworth St, Thorndon, Wellington, 28/12/2016.

61 Molesworth St, Thorndon, Wellington close to completion, 30/12/2016.

61 Molesworth St, Thorndon, Wellington, 29/12/2016.

61 Molesworth St, Thorndon, Wellington - clear site, 21/02/2017.

Contractors are still working on demolishing the Event Cinema complex, as well as 300-space car park at Queensgate Mall in Lower Hutt after it was deemed to be unsafe following November's quake 100 days ago.

Event Cinema complex and 300-space car park, Queensgate Mall, Lower Hutt. 21/11/2016.

Event Cinema complex and 300-space car park, Queensgate Mall, Lower Hutt 1/12/2016.

Event Cinema complex and 300-space car park, Queensgate Mall, Lower Hutt, 09/12/2016.

Event Cinema complex and 300-space car park, Queensgate Mall, Lower Hutt, 17/01/2017

Event Cinema complex and 300-space car park, Queensgate Mall, Lower Hutt, 02/02/2017.

Event Cinema complex and 300-space car park, Queensgate Mall, Lower Hutt, 21/02/2017.

Event Cinema complex and 300-space car park, Queensgate Mall, Lower Hutt, 21/02/2017.

Event Cinema complex and 300-space car park, Queensgate Mall, Lower Hutt, 21/02/2017.

The demolition of the quake-damaged Reading Cinema carpark building, which began on January 4, is now its final stages. Wellington City Council project manager Phil Becker says officials hope to reopen the cordoned-off area in the second or third week of March.

Reading Cinema car park building, 04/01/2017.

Reading Cinema carpark building, 07/01/2017.

Reading Cinema carpark building, 11/01/2017.

Reading Cinema carpark building, 11/01/2017.

Reading Cinema carpark building, 21/02/2017.

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'Big Bertha' crane moves in for Reading Cinema car park demolition

At 12.02 am on November 14, 2016, the quake struck around 60 kilometres south-west of Kaikoura.

The tremor and its rash of aftershocks prompted tsunami warnings, tore up highway roads and isolated parts of the South Island.

Wellington City Council project manager Phil Becker, left, and Naylor Love site manager Elliot Bartley discuss ...
MONIQUE FORD / FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington City Council project manager Phil Becker, left, and Naylor Love site manager Elliot Bartley discuss developments at the Reading Cinema carpark demolition site yesterday.

While no-one was killed or seriously injured in the Wellington region, hundreds were forced out of their homes and thousands of workers were displaced.

Both Wellington Mayor Justin Lester and the city's chief resilience officer Mike Mendonca have praise for the community's response to the challenges posed by the quake and the storms that battered the capital the following day.

But neither claim they have all the answers.

The demolition of the condemned Reading Cinema carpark in Wellington's central city is "around three-quarters complete" ...
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

The demolition of the condemned Reading Cinema carpark in Wellington's central city is "around three-quarters complete" according to city council project manager, Phil Becker.

"No city or country could ever say they are prepared for anything that could be thrown at them through a natural event. No one could say that," Lester said.

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"But, certainly, we are trying to be as best-prepared as possible."

Mendonca agreed. "I would never say that we were fully prepared. I think we are better prepared than we were before.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, left, and chief resilience officer Mike Mendonca won't give full assurances that the ...
FAIRFAX

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, left, and chief resilience officer Mike Mendonca won't give full assurances that the capital is ready to respond should another major quake occur.

"I think that would be the bottom line - that Wellington has come through well, but let's not get complacent."

"This is all about people, rather than pipes and cables."

Today, the quake was still having a lasting impact on the city's building stocks.

Contractors are still working on demolishing the Event Cinemas' complex, as well as 300-space carpark at Queensgate Mall ...
MONIQUE FORD / FAIRFAX NZ

Contractors are still working on demolishing the Event Cinemas' complex, as well as 300-space carpark at Queensgate Mall in Lower Hutt.

The quake prompted Wellington City Council to utilise new powers to compel building owners to share their engineering reports.

More invasive testing was ordered for 80 city buildings, after early results from a Government investigation into Statistics House sparked safety concerns.

A further 18 building owners were granted extensions, due to a lack of engineers.

It took deconstruction teams 10 weeks to bring down 61 Molesworth St - the first Wellington building to be bowled ...
MONIQUE FORD / FAIRFAX NZ

It took deconstruction teams 10 weeks to bring down 61 Molesworth St - the first Wellington building to be bowled following November's Kaikoura quake.

One of the most enduring symbols of November's quake was 61 Molesworth St – the first commercial property to be bowled due to safety fears.

Demolition work has now advanced at the Reading Cinema carpark complex, but the Tory St-Courtenay Place cordon remains in place with about 200 residents and dozens of workers still unlikely to return until the second or third week of March.

Heavy machinery was also being used to pull down Event Cinemas at Queensgate Mall in Lower Hutt, as well as a 300-space carpark.

Statistics House on Wellington's waterfront was one of the worst-hit buildings during the November 2016 earthquake.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ.

Statistics House on Wellington's waterfront was one of the worst-hit buildings during the November 2016 earthquake.

Phil Littlewood of Stride Property, which owns the mall, hoped the about-70 retailers caught out by the complex's partial closure will be allowed back in April. 

Question marks still hang over the fates of a clutch of buildings including Defence House, Statistics House and BNZ Harbour Quays. 

Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford has labelled the official quake response to date as "appropriate" but said there was room for improvement.

The future of Defence House remains uncertain, despite recent claims by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters that the ...
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

The future of Defence House remains uncertain, despite recent claims by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters that the building was destined for the wrecking ball.

"There is now real pressure to urgently focus public expenditure on the city and region's key infrastructure to safeguard and guarantee Wellington's resilience.

"Water access, electricity supply and getting the Port's operations back up and running are vital. We cannot have a situation where the continued operation of the capital city is under threat because we have just one water pipeline with insufficient storage and just one electricity supply point into the CBD," Milford said.

Lester acknowledged future-proofing the city from the impact of a natural disaster was a priority.

Wellington resident Pete McDonald is among around 200 residents displaced while the Reading Cinema carpark demolished ...
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ.

Wellington resident Pete McDonald is among around 200 residents displaced while the Reading Cinema carpark demolished continued.

"From the first of July next year, we'll be looking at fast-tracking infrastructure projects ... we're also looking at the Prince of Wales reservoir water storage, also a cross-harbour pipeline coming straight from the Hutt," Lester said.

Mendonca said the council needed to be prepared to invest.

SIX CITY BUILDINGS: A SNAPSHOT

STATISTICS HOUSE - The future of the building, which partially collapsed, remains in doubt, with owners CentrePort refusing to say if it will be repaired ahead of a looming government inquiry.

BNZ'S HARBOUR QUAYS - Staff of the bank are at locations around the city, with the future of the building unclear until the outcome of the same inquiry as Statistics House.

CENTREPORT - As well as damage to its commercial property, the port suffered extensive damage. Log shipments have resumed as well as limited container movements, but the port is operating far below pre-quake capacity.

DEFENCE HOUSE - During Parliamentary question time last week, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters claimed the building, which used to house 1200 mainly-government employees, was set to be demolished, however a formal decision has not been made.

QUEENSGATE - Part of the Lower Hutt mall remains closed, as work continues to pull down the Event Cinemas' complex and its carpark. Stride Property confirmed yesterday that it hoped to reopen the remaining parts of the centre in April before rebuilding work will begin.

61 MOLESWORTH ST - A high reach excavator was used to claw away at the walls of the nine-storey building in late November, after it was deemed to be a threat to public safety. It was revealed the commercial building was also home to a number of residents.

THE HUMAN FACE OF THE READING CINEMA CARPARK DEMOLITION

An oversized bird's nest of fractured concrete and twisted steel is being piled storeys high, as one of Wellington's biggest quake building casualties is brought down.

Pete McDonald had lived in the Maison Cabriole complex for 16 years before being ordered out of his three-bedroom, fifth-floor apartment in the days after the quake.

Access to his home has been cut off while the now-defunct Reading Cinema carpark was being pulled down using the same heavy machinery which tore down 61 Molesworth St.

"It was the second time in my life I thought I was going to die in an earthquake, it was reasonably terrifying up there," McDonald said.

"It does shudder and shake pretty bad."

McDonald learned he would not be allowed back into his Tory St apartment through a Stuff story.

He was now paying rent and power for both his unoccupied apartment and a temporary residence for himself, his partner and daughter.

"It is not pleasant. My mother and I are getting a little bit of assistance through the body corporate's insurance, but it's not everything and I didn't have contents insurance, unfortunately.

"All in all, it has been a really expensive process."

Wellington City Council project manager Phil Becker said the carpark demolition was about "three-quarters complete".

"We've got some 200 residents who are still out of their homes and it's looking like the second or third week of March that we'll be able to get them back in," Becker said.

"Over the course of the demolition, the risk to some of the surrounding buildings has meant that the businesses can get in in a staged way, so we've been trying to get them in as soon as we can given the risks."

THAT SHAKING FEELING

Seismologists say the probability of another major quake hitting the Kaikoura quake zone is decreasing by the day - but they are adamant the threat still exists.

As of Monday morning, more than 13,600 shakes had been recorded since the colossal November shake – 55 of them measuring magnitude 5 to 5.9, while four events were magnitude 6 or greater.

This week, GeoNet said there was an 18 per cent chance of a magnitude 6 to 6.9 quake striking within the next month,- this latest forecast down from 25 per cent in January.

While the downward trend was positive, GeoNet public information specialist Caroline Little said we only need to look at Canterbury to realise aftershock sequences can last for years after the initial mainshock.

"The [forecasted probability is] still much higher than what we would normally live with year to year, but it is dropping as we move away from November."

Little said the Kaikoura quake was unique, because more than 10 fault lines were involved.

BY THE NUMBERS

18 businesses still excluded from their workplaces in the Tory St-Courtenay Place inner-city cordon

About 200 residents still forced out of their homes in the same area

80 buildings highlighted for further investigations, of which 18 have been granted extensions

2 cinemas closed

More than 13,600 quakes have been recorded since the Kaikoura quake*

4 quakes have measured magnitude 6.0 or greater since November 14*

GeoNet says there is now at 18 per cent chance of at least one quake measuring magnitude 6.0 occurring within the next month

*Figures correct as of Monday morning. Source: GeoNet.

 

 - Stuff

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