Insurance driving demolition
09 Mar 2017
Too many new buildings are being demolished, rather than repaired, in Wellington after the Kaikoura magnitude 7.8 quake, a seismic safety commissioner from California says.
Kit Miyamoto, from Miyamoto International earthquake structural engineers, has consulted on earthquakes in Japan, Kathmandu, Haiti and Christchurch.
He says in the United States owners tend to try and save buildings because it's cheaper. "We strengthen the building and the cost of that is usually 20 - 30 percent of the replacement cost".
Wellington's approach to demolition is "somewhat unusual on an international scale".
Part of the reason for this, Mr Miyamoto thinks, is the availability of insurance in New Zealand. However he adds "There's no such thing as free money, sooner or later we have to pay for it".
An office block at 61 Molesworth Street has already been demolished, along with Reading carpark on Tory Street.
Wellington City Council has plans to demolish at least two of its buildings in the CBD and there are question marks over the future of a number of buildings owned by Centreport, including Statistics House.
Last week it was announced that Defence House on Aitken Street, which was built on base isolators, will also be demolished.
"I've never heard of a building with base isolators failing before", Mr Miyamoto says.
Mr Miyamoto wouldn't be drawn on which buildings earmarked for demolition should be saved.
Mayor Justin Lester acknowledged that it is more costly to demolish and rebuild, but says "we have to weed out those buildings that won't perform well in the next earthquake."
"Generally it is cheaper to repair rather than rebuild however in some situations, and we've seen that with Defence House, they've done some fairly investigative analysis and they've determined that in fact they are better off to develop anew rather than repair".
"I think all Wellingtonians would prefer that when buildings can be repaired, that they are".
He says the council is investing in existing buildings, including Wellington town hall - at this stage $58 million has been budgeted but Mr Lester expects it might cost more.
"We're going to spend a tremendous amount of money on making sure we preserve the city's heritage, we're going to do the same in Cuba Street".