Quake fears put New Hub on hiatus

TRACY NEAL AND EMMA BEER
Last updated 16:02 12/06/2012
New Hub
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
ON SHAKY GROUND: Nelson's New Hub Youth centre will close for two weeks following recent concerns about earthquake-strength ratings.

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A Nelson youth centre will assess options for its future after suspending recreation activities for the next two weeks following concerns over the building's earthquake rating.

New Hub manager Stephen Stiles said its youth centre activities had been suspended to ensure the safety of its young people.

Trustees would now look at all options and would be talking to the building's owner, the Nelson City Council, to get a proper idea of how serious the risks were and learn more about what it meant in the longer term.

The New Hub, the Refinery gallery and Prego Mediterranean Foods retail store in Nelson operate from city council buildings with poor earthquake-strength ratings that have alarmed city councillors.

The strength of the Refinery Artspace building in Halifax St, the Trafalgar Centre stadium and the State Advances Building next to Civic House have also caused concern.

A building is deemed to be earthquake-prone if its resistance to a quake is less than 33 per cent of the standard of a new building. The report gives the New Hub a preliminary rating of 5.5 per cent.

Mr Stiles said he was unable to comment on what might happen once the two-week suspension period was over, without having discussed the matter with the hub's trustees.

The recreation services which have been suspended used to operate from 3pm to 6pm on weekdays and 12pm to 5pm on weekends.

Groups that rent space for activities, including yoga, tai chi and zumba, would be given the choice to continue to use the space, Mr Stiles said.

"We will let them know the risks and they can choose whether or not they want to continue operating their activities in the building," Mr Stiles said.

"We want to know how we can offer really good-quality services, and what we can get in the interim to continue to provide these services."

Earlier this year Riverside Pool, the building that houses Pumpkin Patch retail store in Nelson and Prego Mediterranean Foods were given a deadline by the council to have reinforcement work done. The earliest deadline is 2014 for council-owned Riverside Pool.

Operators of Prego Mediterranean Foods, which operate businesses in Nelson and Richmond, were unavailable for comment this morning.

Roger Thorn, general manager of the Kahurangi Employment Trust based in the Refinery Artspace building said today it was "far too early" to start making any decisions on whether to move.

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"We will be receiving a letter from the council some time in the next few months advising us of the full details of the assessment to be done," Mr Thorn said.

"Once that's complete it will include estimates of strengthening costs and that's when we'll know what we're dealing with."

Several hundred other commercial buildings in Nelson are expected to be classified as quake-prone, with reinforcement work needed also, but the council is working through a list of 478 buildings, which is estimated to take up to five years.

The council employs one contract engineer, Bruce Mutton, for two days a week to do the assessments, but a request to appoint another fulltime engineer has been made and will be considered by councillors through the present long-term plan process.

Council manager of building Tracy Quinton-Boundy said today it was a matter for tenants to decide if they wanted to remain in a building assessed with a quake rating. It was possible that it could lead to some tenants wanting to exit lease contracts earlier.

"All we've done is advise them their building is at risk. It's between the tenant and the building owner to negotiate the contract on whether they stay or go."

She said the buildings were not "seriously in danger" but at risk, and the council had an obligation to inform tenants and the public of this fact.

The Youth Transition Service, also housed in the New Hub building, will continue off-site during the two weeks, and youth workers can be contacted by phone.

- Nelson

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