Article by Simon Hendery
21 June 2017
Almost 200 local government and IRD workers are abandoning their offices in two earthquake-prone buildings owned by Napier City Council.
The council admitted to being surprised on Wednesday by a report that found its four-storey library building on the corner of Station and Dalton streets had been rated as low as 15 per cent of the new building code at its weakest point.
The findings prompted Inland Revenue, which leases space on two floors of the building, to immediate direct its 78 Napier staff to work from home. About 100 council staff will continue to work in the building.
But the council said it was moving as quickly as it could to relocate 115 staff from its adjacent civic building, which rated even worse under the Strata Group engineering assessment.
The report found the 1967 civic building rated as low as 10 per cent of new building code at its weakest point.
Staff were briefed on the report’s findings, and the process of moving staff out of the building began on Wednesday, council chief executive Wayne Jack said.
“We will relocate all our teams and our front counter from the civic building, and are aiming to do this as quickly as we can,” he said.
A spokesman for IRD said the department had moved its 78 Hawke’s Bay staff out of the two floors it leases from the council in the library building.
Those staff had the capacity to work remotely from home, or other locations, and would do so until the situation was assessed.
Jack said the council had been surprised by the library building’s 15 per cent rating, but the issues were “relatively quick and simple to remediate”.
Minor work within the stairwells, and to improve the seatings for the precast units throughout the structure, would begin soon and was expected to bring the building up to close to 50 per cent of code.
Further work, which the council had already budgeted for, would then be undertaken to bring the building “as close to 100 per cent as possible”, Jack said.
But the Strata Group report points to demolition for the civic building, where the council has known for some time that seismic problems will be expensive to remedy.
It recently floated the idea of turning the library building into its main headquarters, and redeveloping the civic building site.
Strata Group director Guy Lethbridge said attempting to strengthen the civic building “would be a complex and widespread undertaking”, which engineers did not believe “represents value for money in that the strengthening costs could be more than a new build”.
On the other hand, “there is a strong case to be made for improving the strength of the Library Building, as this can be done through relatively straightforward works”.
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said he was pleased the council had acted quickly to relocate its workers.
Staff had already started making preparations for “a range of scenarios” before receiving the Strata Group report. “One of those scenarios was the possibility that our teams would have to move out.”
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