Quake-prone centre 'unsafe to occupy'

CATE BROUGHTON
Last updated 12:26 24/07/2014
David Meates
Dean Kozanic/Fairfax NZ
FURTHER DAMAGE FOUND: CDHB chief executive David Meates said the centre was one of the organisation's 30 earthquake-prone buildings.

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Staff and users of the Allan Bean Centre at Burwood Hospital were forced to leave the building on Tuesday after it was declared unsafe to occupy.

The building, owned by Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), was home to a number of services and organisations providing support to people with spinal cord injuries and their families. 

CDHB chief executive David Meates said the centre was one of the organisation's 30 earthquake-prone buildings that were subject to ongoing engineering checks and re-checks. 

''Unfortunately in this case, further damage has been identified and it's not safe for people to remain in the building.''

Meates said due to the building's construction, post-quake slumping and the type of damage observed, it was unlikely to be economic to repair.

The closure was typical of the fragile environment the DHB was operating in, he said. 

National non-profit organisation New Zealand Spinal Trust (NZST) was based at the centre, and it was home to other research and educational initiatives for those with spinal cord impairment and their families. 

''We weren't expecting this but we have got to trust the DHB and the engineers,'' NZST chief executive Ben Lucas said. 

Between 20 to 50 people a day visited the NZST library at the centre, which included the largest collection of rehabilitation material in the country.

''That's where the biggest impact will be.''

Lucas said the trust's 16 staff were able to work from home to deliver support services to people at the Spinal Unit and in the community. 

The centre was built in 2001 with funds raised by Professor Alan Clark, who founded the NZST.

It was named in honour of former clinical director of the Burwood Hospital Spinal Unit, Allan Bean. 

NZST had occupied the building under an arrangement with the DHB which meant it was not charged a leasing fee, Lucas said. 

''If we can't be on site, we don't have the funds to pay for a commercial building."

The trust would work with the DHB on "finding a solution to meet the needs of all parties", Lucas said.

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