Showplace buildings ruled quake-prone

Urgent work is needed on the TSB Showplace to ensure it is safe during an earthquake.
Urgent work is needed on the TSB Showplace to ensure it is safe during an earthquake.

Urgent earthquake-strengthening work is planned for two public New Plymouth buildings after it was discovered the earthquake risk at both was worse than originally thought.

The TSB Showplace and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery will have hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on each to bring them up to standard as soon as possible.

Both buildings had already been identified by the New Plymouth District Council as likely to be earthquake prone, but detailed engineering evaluations showed their risk factor was worse than early reports indicated.

Next week, the council's monitoring committee will consider a recommendation that detailed designs be commissioned for both.

For the Showplace, work is expected to take place as early as this summer at a cost of about $700,000.

Work at the Govett-Brewster, still uncosted but expected to be a similar amount, is planned to take place at the same time as the building of the Len Lye Centre, scheduled to begin next March.

Money for the work will come from the council's depreciation fund and by deferring other maintenance work on the same buildings.

In the case of the Showplace, plans to replace the roof, which contains asbestos, will be put on hold.

In the meantime, signs will be placed at both informing the public of the risk.

The council's general manager infrastructure, Anthony Wilson, said the signs were not being put up to alarm people but to ensure they could make informed decisions, knowing the potential risk.

"The buildings are still structurally sound and the risk hasn't changed, the buildings are no more or less safe than they were 20 years ago.

"All that has changed is our understanding of how they will perform in a moderate to large earthquake.

"We've looked fairly closely at whether we should close them, but we've decided there's no justifiable reason to do that."

Mr Wilson said a number of details such as final costs and exact time frames would not be known until the engineer's plans were finished.

Taranaki Arts Festival Trust chief executive Suzanne Porter said until she knew exact dates of closures she couldn't say which shows would be affected at the Showplace.

She said January and February were quiet months at the

Showplace but if work continued into March and April then some of the bigger travelling shows could be disrupted.

She hoped the news would not put people off attending in the meantime and she did not think it would be an issue.

"The last time we were on the front page as an earthquake risk, we didn't get any feedback at all, except from Rhys Darby, who was performing there at the time wearing a hard hat."

The minimum standard for buildings is 33 per cent earthquake-strength under the National Building Standards and all buildings must be up to that standard within the next 10 to 30 years.

Initial evaluations done by the council showed the two buildings were either below or near that building standard.

Further assessments showed both could be lower than 20 per cent, Mr Wilson said.

"All we have to do is bring them up to more than 33 per cent in 10 to 30 years but we don't regard that as appropriate for buildings used by the public."

Taranaki Daily News