Mayor seeks information on future of waterfront car park

4 February 2020

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster is seeking advice on options and costs relating to the Frank Kitts Park car park, which has been declared earthquake-prone.

Panoramic view from harbour to the city.

The Wellington Underground Market is to cease trading in the waterfront car park following confirmation by engineers that the structure is earthquake-prone. The last market will be held in the car park on Saturday 14 March.

Mayor Foster says the building, constructed in 1989, is on a key site on the waterfront and that it is really disappointing the market has to close. “However I understand the concerns that have led to the decision to close.

“The market is a much loved attraction, full of creative enterprises, and acts as a valuable business incubator.

“I have met some of the stall holders and am already actively looking for alternative venues for the underground market with Wellington Creative Markets, which runs the market. We’d love to hear from any property owners who think they might be able to accommodate all or part of the market.”

Wellington City Council Acting Chief Operating Officer Paul Andrews says the decision to declare the building quake-prone (less than 34% of new building standard) follows a Detailed Seismic Assessment completed by engineers Holmes Consulting that identified structural weaknesses in elements of the building.

“Following discussions with the market operators we have decided we are not comfortable with the level of risk to the several hundred people who can be in the car park when the market is trading.”

The timing of the last underground market has been agreed by Wellington Creative Markets and the City Council.

Mr Andrews says the quake-prone listing of the car park means the Council is now legally required to remedy the situation in seven years’ time – however work to strengthen or demolish the building could be done sooner than that depending on decisions relating to the future of the overall site.

In the meantime the building will continue to operate as a commercial car park and the park above will remain open to public use. The retailers operating in small shops on the lagoon and harbour frontages of the car park building are able to remain open.

The City Council last year commissioned Holmes Consulting to undertake a seismic assessment of the car park, as part of the Council’s obligation to review the resilience of its buildings. It also followed damage to sections of the waterfront in the 2016 Kaikoura quake – and new insights into the performance of differing ground conditions and building materials following the Christchurch and Kaikoura quakes.

Mr Andrews says Frank Kitts Park is on land reclaimed from the harbour in the 1970s. “Engineers’ advice is that the ground, being reclaimed land, could perform poorly in a quake.”

He says a report on options and issues relating to the car park and the overall park site will be prepared for consideration by the elected Council. This recognises that the condition of the car park will have an impact on consented proposals for upgrading Frank Kitts Park including a new children’s playground and the proposed Chinese Garden.

Mr Andrews says the Homegrown music festival in Frank Kitts Park in March will go ahead as planned. The Council will assist Wellington Creative Markets where possible in its attempts to find a replacement venue for the market. Staff are also discussing with Wellington’s Chinese community the impact on the car park’s quake-prone status on plans for the Chinese Garden in Frank Kitts Park.

Background

The 30-year-old car park is a single-storey building on Jervois Quay. It houses the Wellington Underground Market every Saturday, and the car park’s roof is part of Frank Kitts Park.

The seismic assessment identified structural weaknesses in the car park’s roof and issues with the seismic performance of the reclaimed ground under the car park.

Wellington Creative Markets is a business that operates the Underground Market. It has been operating from the car park for 10 years. Wellington Creative Markets host 70 to 100 stallholders operating on Saturdays and some Sundays year-round.