Council HQ ‘might collapse’ in major quake


Queenstown’s council headquarters is at risk of a CTV-like collapse in a major earthquake, councillors were told yesterday.

At a full council meeting in Queenstown, The Property Group senior consultant Ian Thompson, of Christchurch, says the Gorge Rd building, at 35 per cent of current code, is not technically at risk in an earthquake.

He told councillors that “does not say ‘everybody gets out alive’ … in a significant event”.

“They [buildings] don’t all react … how they were originally designed,” Thompson says.

“There are a number of factors that could happen [but] we’ve got, potentially, a brittle collapse situation.

“The structural and engineering reports [indicate] it’s got similar things to the CTV building in Christchurch.

“[Depending on] the nature of the earthquake and the nature of the building … the significant risk is that there’s a significant event, liquefaction happens and you have a collapse.”

However, Mayor Vanessa van Uden says the Gorge Rd site, by the government’s definition, is not “earthquake prone”.

“Last time I looked, liquefaction happened after an earthquake.

“Standards for this country say 35 per cent is not earthquake prone. That’s the basis of people getting out alive.”

At present, 66 staff work from the Gorge Rd site, including library staff.

The building was designed in 1976. Significant alterations/additions occurred in 1994, 1998 and 2003.

The TPG report says the site had been identified as “potentially liquefaction prone”.

“The structure of the building – large floor plate at first floor level of precast concrete and concrete reinforced brick and reinforced masonry piers – constitutes a stiff brittle structure which, in the event of liquefaction, poses a risk of potential collapse.

“Such a collapse has the potential for life threatening consequences.”

Upgrading the building will cost about the equivalent of a new building, the report said.

Cr Ella Lawton asked whether staff felt concerned about working from there.

Corporate services general manager Meaghan Miller responded: “I can assure you that staff are uncomfortable in this building.”

Cr Calum MacLeod then asked if Miller would want her “son or daughter working here”.

“No,” Miller responded.

Van Uden said she also worked in the building and “I don’t think there’s any difference working in this building than [others in the CBD]”.

Chief executive Adam Feeley also weighed into the debate. He reminded councillors he would be the only person facing prosecution if the worst happened.

“[What] I’m advocating to this council is that there should be a commitment to moving out within a defined timeframe.

“I think there’s scope for debating what this timeframe is … but, doing that piece of work requires a decision from you as elected members.”

Van Uden proposed an amendment, to include the immediate relocation of the emergency operations centre (EOC) to the Queenstown Events Centre.

Councillors agreed to relocate the EOC and for Feeley to investigate accommodation for all staff – at present spread over three sites – for the next two to five years.

He will report back to the November meeting on long-term options.

Van Uden says she wanted advice from Minister of Building and Housing Nick Smith about the council’s obligations under the Health and Safety Act versus the new building standard.

Otago Daily Times