Council holds secret talks on quake-prone buildings

Nelson City Council was heading into confidential discussion today on a way forward for earthquake-prone buildings it owns.

Late last year it issued a timeframe for strengthening work needed on several council-owned buildings, including the brick facade of Riverside Pool which was to be repaired by June 2014; the building occupied by Hamills in Bridge St by November 2021; Supre in Bridge St by November 2021; Pumpkin Patch in Bridge St by September 2019; and the building occupied by Prego Mediterranean Foods, Halifax St, by January 2022.

At the same time the council also starting discussions with owners of public buildings such as Nelson Cathedral and Nelson College.

The council’s reason for discussing the matter privately today was because the report contained information regarding negotiations with commercial tenants.

The council announced in June that it was closing the building Prego Mediterranean Foods operated from in the central city, but several weeks later moved to assure the public it was still "very much open for business".

The council-owned Halifax St building is rated as earthquake-prone and graded E. This means that with a seismic grade of 8 per cent, it fails to reach the 33 per cent needed to achieve an acceptable building standard.

City council executive manager of network services Alec Louverdis said last month while the building Prego occupied had been issued a Section 124 notice, a detailed assessment of the building had not been done.

The council passed a resolution that buildings which had had the assessment done could be closed.

The council-owned New Hub headquarters on New St closed for good last month, based on a preliminary rating that deems it at risk of suffering damage in an earthquake.

Mr Louverdis said recently the council had commissioned a structural engineer to undertake a detailed earthquake assessment of the building tenanted by Prego. Pending the strength rating once that assessment was done, council staff would meet with the tenants to work out any next steps.

The council is expecting to issue notices on several hundred buildings over the coming years as it works through assessing the strength of commercial and public buildings in the wake of Christchurch’s deadly earthquake.

Nelson City Council building manager Tracy Quinton-Boundy said recently it would take council staff up to five years to assess the 478 commercial buildings which were due to be reviewed for earthquake standards, under the waiting list.

There are now 240 structures in the central city and the wider Nelson area identified as potentially earthquake-prone, including public and commercial buildings and bridges. Of the privately-owned buildings, only the council and the owners know which ones they are as the list is not publicly available.

Once a building has been deemed earthquake prone, owners are issued a notice which they are required to publicly display in the building. They also face fines of up to $200,000 if the required repairs are not carried out within the specified timeframe.

The council has also recently increased its budget to deal with building assessments from $60,000 to $200,000.

The Nelson Mail