Quake fears cause closure of Trafalgar Centre

CONDEMNED: Nelson's Trafalgar Centre has been closed while the city council decides whether to upgrade the facility or demolish it.
CONDEMNED: Nelson's Trafalgar Centre has been closed while the city council decides whether to upgrade the facility or demolish it.

Nelson's main indoor venue, the Trafalgar Centre, has been closed because of its earthquake risk, the city council has announced.

Mayor Rachel Reese said the decision, effective immediately, was a result of engineering and legal advice presented yesterday, which meant the only appropriate response was to close the civic facility immediately.

''The advice we have received identifies that if the Trafalgar Centre is in use during a moderate earthquake, the risk of loss of life is high. The only appropriate response to managing this risk is to close the centre to public use immediately,'' she said.

A decision on whether to strengthen it to meet new building standards, or pull it down would be made in the New Year.

Council staff were making every attempt to find other suitable venues for those who already have bookings in the coming months, including Saxton Stadium. The council was already in talks with the Marlborough Events Centre, whose management have indicated they would do what they could to accommodate pre-booked events.

The council has also allocated a ''significant sum'' of money for temporary seating for the Saxton Stadium to work in the interim with Nelson's basketball fraternity.

The Fico Finance Nelson Giants basketball team has based its home games at the Trafalgar Centre for more than three decades.

The centre cost less than $650,000 to build in the 1970s. It has served sports groups well but audiences attending concerts and indoor entertainment events have complained about acoustics.

A planned upgrade of the Trafalgar Centre was put on hold in August for the new city council to decide whether to quake-strengthen Nelson's main indoor venue or pull it down.

The report on the centre's future outlined possible earthquake strengthening requirements and potential for liquefaction at the site. It also outlined the need to identify what risks there might be to people in the building during a moderate earthquake.

Staff said then, in answer to a question from former Deputy Mayor Ali Boswijk, that demolishing the building might be one of the options.

Ms Reese said today the council was doing all it could to accommodate regular users of the centre and groups which had already made bookings. It was too early to say what the long term prospects were for the building.

''We've no answers yet because we need more information on the costs to strengthen the building.''

Ms Reese said it could reach a point when the council would consider it did not make economic sense to spend money on strengthening it.

''I can't underestimate how big an issue this is. It is a significant issue that has come from left field.''

Ms Reese said the council had called a special meeting for next Thursday.

''Staff need to be given direction to help make a decision in the New Year.''

A popular upcoming event has happily been relocated straight away. Ticket holders for the Mayors' Christmas Dinner are advised that it will now be held at the Nelson College Hall.