Building repair letter 'misplaced'

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2012

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Commissioners have "difficulty accepting" the explanation for why earthquake repairs were never done at 382 Colombo St.

During the February 2011 quake, a parapet wall crashed through the roof of the Tasty Tucker Bakery next door, killing customer Maureen Fletcher, 75, and rendering another, Bev Edwards, a paraplegic.

David Yan, who helped manage the building for his elderly mother, told the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission that a letter from the Christchurch City Council requiring quake repairs be done by November 15, 2010, was misplaced.

The building had been issued a yellow placard.

Yan's sister, Eileen, received the letter and gave it to their brother, Michael, who put the notice in a bag, then took the bag to Auckland and put it in a cupboard.

No work was done by the owner.

"We have difficulty accepting the explanation given by Mr David Yan as to why the . . . notice was not complied with," the commissioners' report said.

"It must have been evident that this was an important document that required attention.

"Compliance with the . . . notice might not have addressed the potential risk posed . . . but a detailed assessment of the building by a competent engineer might have addressed that risk."

A consent application was lodged in 2007 to install living quarters upstairs, but this change of use flagged the building under the council's quake-prone building policy.

The application was not pursued because of the cost of strengthening, although someone continued to live at the property until the February 2011 quake, with Yan occasionally collecting rent.

Yan's friend, Robert Ling, an engineer, did not recall any signs of damage near the parapet after the September 2010 quake, but loss adjuster Peter Avnell inspected the building with Yan and Ling in January 2011 and was concerned about cracks and an apparent tilt.

Ling did not think the parapet wall was dangerous at the time, but later conceded it may have been.

He was still working on a structural damage report requested by Avnell when the February 2011 quake hit.

City council resource consents and building policy manager Steve McCarthy said the council had done some propping work to the building's facade and veranda, but not removed its yellow placard. "That suggests to me we weren't comfortable the building was up to the required standard."

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