Cera bails as owners face down asbestos

18:21, Mar 24 2013
BNZ House
BNZ HOUSE: The Cathedral Square office tower contained asbestos.

The tricky removal of asbestos from the BNZ House will be left to the owners after the Government bailed on its demolition halfway through the job.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) took over the demolition of the quake-damaged office tower in 2011 after ruling it was dangerous and rejecting a make-safe plan submitted by consortium owner Cristo Ltd.

Cera planned to level the building, but in December last year decided that with seven storeys demolished it was safe and could be handed back to Cristo - a move its director has described as a "considerable difficulty".

"When the demolition commenced, the contract . . . was for a complete demolition and the tenders and contract were provided to the owner at that time," a Cera spokeswoman said.

"Cera is satisfied that [BNZ House] has been deconstructed to a stage where it no longer poses a hazard as a dangerous building."

Hawkins is the project manager on BNZ House, and March McGee the demolition contractor. Work was scheduled to finish last December.


The demolition has had a troubled history. Work stopped in July last year when asbestos was found on steel beams encased in concrete. Approval was needed to change the project from a "high- reach" job, where massive excavators eat away the building, to a "cut and crane" job - where large sections of concrete are cut up and removed intact.

In January it was revealed that demolition rubble contaminated with asbestos lay uncovered in central Christchurch for weeks before it was contained. Loose fibres of the harmful material were found on Hereford St.

The decision in December to hand the building back to the owners was "not at all" related to the asbestos recovery, the spokeswoman said.

"We advised the building owner on 21 December 2012 that the building was no longer structurally dangerous. At that time it still had non-encapsulated asbestos in it that Cera undertook to remove before handing the building back to the owner."

"Non-encapsulated" relates to asbestos found before demolition started in service pipes, tile flooring, vinyl and paint in the basement and in the perimeter of the tenth floor, but not asbestos found encased in steel beams.

"Remaining encapsulated asbestos needs to be removed if further [demolition] continues," the spokeswoman said.

Cristo director Stephen Bell said the consortium was "evaluating its options".

"The original section 38 [notice under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act] was for the whole building to be demolished and then Cera changed their mind in the last couple of months.

"Obviously that's a considerable difficulty for us. We're still discussing it."

Cristo had not talked to Cera about what action it may take over the demolition change, Bell said.

"But we're going to."

Cera issued a section 38 notice to Cristo in September 2011, having found the building was dangerous. A Cera engineering assessment found the building was tilting and that demolition was the only option.

The Press