Wellington Quakes Update #22 - Sunday

20 November 2016

As at 6.40pm

Work to start on Molesworth Street building tomorrow - and update on Reading Cinema car park

The quake-damaged office block at 61 Molesworth Street is to be demolished by the property’s owner, with work starting as early as tomorrow (Monday 21 November).

Part of the building was substantially damaged in last Monday morning’s earthquake and there are concerns it could collapse.

A demolition contractor has been hired to ‘deconstruct’ the nine-storey building. An 85-tonne ‘ultra-high-reach’ excavator will be moved on to the site in the next couple of days and initial demolition works could start as early as tomorrow (Monday 21 November) or Tuesday.

The start on work largely depends on how long it will take to turn off electricity, gas and other services to the building.

Work to demolish the building is expected to take about two weeks, weather permitting.

Wellington City Council Chief Executive Kevin Lavery says it is planned to initially focus on the demolition of the Molesworth Street façade of the building and then work progressively to the rear of the site.

“By doing this, we can hopefully reduce the cordon around Molesworth Street to vehicles and pedestrians within around a week of demolition work starting. This will allow more buildings, for example the Embassy of Thailand and NZ Rugby headquarters, to be reopened."

Mr Lavery says a hydraulically-powered ‘demolition shear’ at the end of the excavator’s boom will chew through the building’s concrete and steel structure. “It will be a relatively quiet procedure as we are mindful of the surrounding neighbourhood.”

The dangerous condition of the site means no-one will be allowed to enter the building before demolition starts. As a result, the City Council’s welfare team is working to assist the family who had been living in the building, and to the businesses – Bali Day Spa, Nudel Wellington, The Mews and City Clothing Alterations – that had been operating from the site.

The cordon area around 61 Molesworth Street has been reduced in the past 24 hours. This means the Cathedral of St Paul and Loaves and Fishes are now accessible.

Mr Lavery says the Council and the contractor cannot guarantee that a mural, installed in the foyer of the building when it was constructed in the mid-1960s, can be saved. “We will make a call on this as the deconstruction proceeds. However, safety is paramount – if it becomes clear that the risks are too great then we will not be able to retrieve the artwork.”

Reading car parking building – update

Work to temporarily strengthen the multi-storey Reading Cinema car park in Tory Street is expected to start during the next few days. Steel props and framing will be installed along, possibly, with Kevlar ‘wraps’ on building pillars to stabilize the structure. This work may take up to a month and the existing cordons will likely stay in place until the work is completed.

City Council staff have been in close contact with affected property owners and will continue to work with them as more information comes available. So far only a handful of residents from inside the cordoned area have required assistance.

See a similar demolition in Christchurch by the contractor after the 2011 earthquake: Christchurch BDO Lumney Demolition - YouTube

For further updates follow us on Facebook or Twitter or refer to Wellington Region Emergency Management (WREMO).