Out of office Housing NZ staff work from home

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 12:00 10/11/2012

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Housing New Zealand has closed its Nelson office in Collingwood St, saying it does not meet its earthquake safety standards.

The six staff are now working from home while Housing NZ looks at other options.

Housing NZ said the staff were tenancy managers who already spent about 70 per cent of their time out of the office visiting tenants, so it expected the move would have little impact on customers who could contact them anytime at its customer services centre.

The Nelson office is one of five regional offices which Housing NZ says do not meet earthquake standards. The others are in Greymouth, Invercargill, Te Kuiti and Kaitaia. It says staff have been relocated for safety reasons.

During the next three months, more permanent premises would be sourced for staff, said Angela Pearce, acting general manager tenancy services.

"Staff health and safety is of paramount importance and is our prime concern in taking this action. While in most cases we have no reason to believe there is any reason for immediate concern, we have acted quickly in the best interests of our staff working in these offices," she said.

Housing NZ does not own any of the buildings and said it was working with the building owners.

The owner of the Nelson building is a company owned by three family trusts. Spokesman Ross McKechnie said the building dated back to the 19th century and had significant earthquake strengthening work in the mid-1990s.

While the building was assessed at 35 per cent of the standards set in the Building Act to withstand earthquake damage, which was above the required 33 per cent, he understood Housing NZ's requirement was for 70 per cent for a building used by the public.

They would likely look at further work to enhance the earthquake strengthening and re-tenant the building, he said.

Housing NZ had flagged last year that it would not be a long-term tenant, he said.

He believed the earthquake standards requirements, emphasised by the Christchurch quakes, would trigger billions of dollars of work throughout the country.

Several commercial buildings in Nelson have had quake strengthening work done this year.

Late last year, Nelson City Council 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 started discussions with owners of public buildings, such as the Nelson Cathedral and Nelson College.

Housing NZ is also assessing its Palmerston North, Hastings, Lower Hutt and Porirua premises.

In September, two Housing NZ tenants had to move out of their Nelson home while earthquake strengthening work was done.

Housing NZ has identified 767 residential buildings defined as "potentially earthquake prone".

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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