Council’s big hall call


The council’s yet to sign off on suggestions to strengthen Arrowtown’s Athenaeum Hall.

Following the 5.8-magnitude earthquake near Wanaka on May 4, the council-owned hall was closed to the public pending an engineer’s report.

The building was inspected and subsequently reopened after the engineer reported it suffered “only minor damage” and had “not been measurably weakened” by the quake.

After the quake, three cracks in the plaster, following brickwork patterns, could be seen on an exterior wall of the building – one from a window to the roof and two from the bottom of the same window.

Council planning and development manager Marc Bretherton says the cracks might have been caused by the quake and reiterated they are minor.

The hall was originally built in 1870, with significant alterations in 1991.

In February the council reduced the capacity of the hall to 300 from 500 so it did not trigger the earthquake-prone threshold under the Building Act.

That followed an assessment by Holmes Consulting Group of all the council’s public buildings.

The capacity of a building has an influence on its earthquake rating.

The Holmes report on the hall recommends the council strengthen it to above 67 per cent of the current building code.

However, that will involve significantly more work than the [above] 33 per cent.”

Since then, further assessments had been done to consider strengthening work, possibly to include additional bracing, wall connection upgrades and minor concrete strengthening.

Bretherton says structural design plans have recently been received by the council, with a proposal to carry out earthquake strengthening to bring the hall “up to code”.

Achieving 34 per cent of code will cost an estimated $280,000. To reach 67 per cent will cost about $490,000.

Bretherton: “That’s a decision for councillors.

“The council’s obligation … is to comply with the law and comply with nationally recognised standards as they apply to earthquake-prone buildings, so that’s essentially what the council has done in restricting the capacity in the Athenaeum Hall over the last couple of months.

“Compliance with what our legal obligations are, and the duty of care that’s owed to the community generally, that’s the key consideration from council’s perspective.”

The budget had been signalled to the council as part of its deliberations on the long term plan later this month.

Mr Bretherton anticipates the work will be carried out in the next financial year.

Submissions to the draft long term plan closed last month and will be heard in Queenstown on May 25 and in Wanaka on May 26.

Otago Daily Times