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Damning report still leaves questions unanswered

The report on the partial collapse of Statistics New Zealand House in last November’s earthquake highlights changes that are needed to our building and design standards, but also leaves important questions unanswered, says Labour MP for Wellington Central Grant Robertson.

“There’s no doubt if the earthquake had been just after midday rather than just after midnight, people would have died in Statistics House. It doesn’t get much more serious than that.

“The report highlights a combination of factors that led to the quake. Some of these related to design standards that applied at the time of the building and the particular type of earthquake. We support the recommendations that there needs to be a review of design standards, updating of building laws and, investigation of buildings of a similar design and age.

“The report also shows that in 2013 the owners of the building, Centreport, received a report that recommended as a ‘critical element’ strengthening floor units at the four corners of the building. This work had been completed on one floor by the time of November’s quake and that floor did not sustain damage. The work had not been done on the floors where the serious collapse occurred.

“Why had that work, identified as ‘critical’, not been done in the three years before November’s quake? Why were staff still working in the building when ‘critical’ work had not been fully completed? This could have had catastrophic consequences if people had been at work during that time.

“Wellingtonians also deserve to know what consideration has been given to the so-called “basin-edge” effect that causes amplification of ground shaking in this part of the city. We need reassurance that buildings constructed in this space have been designed with the specific geology in mind.

“Most Wellington buildings performed well in the earthquake, and we should be grateful for that. But this report highlights that there’s still work to do to ensure the safety of workers and residents of our city is protected,” says Grant Robertson.