The developer of Wellington’s biggest office tower says it was evacuated due to a “perceived danger, not a real danger”.
Around 2000 Inland Revenue (IRD) workers could spend up to a fortnight out of their plush central Wellington offices to allow post-quake remedial work to be carried out.
The government department occupies the bulk of the 15-storey Asteron Centre on Featherston St, which was evacuated on Wednesday afternoon due to structural concerns.
Mark Dunajtschik, a shareholder and director of owner One Featherston Development, said on Thursday that an initial engineers’ report gave the green light for the building to open, but a second report, commissioned by IRD, raised concerns about cracks in the stairwells.
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“We have two professional, contradicting opinions,” he said.
“All day, we have been concentrating on actual remedial work, rather than having academic discussions about whether one or the other professional is correct.”
However, he ruled out getting a third one, saying “it would be far more productive to get on with the job”.
“It would not do much good, because you will always end up with two saying it’s safe and one saying it’s not safe and, if management of the building chooses to accept the “not safe” one, then you must do something about it.”
Dunajtschik said the stairwell cracks first appeared after the Seddon earthquake in 2013, but had reappeared after last week’s tremor, “because they were only fixed cosmetically, not structurally”.
IRD spokesman Rowan McArthur said the organisation was putting displaced employees in its Hawkestone St and Upper Hutt offices while the work was carried out. Others would continue to work remotely.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), another tenant, was meeting on Thursday afternoon to decide where and how it would operate while the Asteron Centre was repaired.
Spokesman Mike Richards said: “All of CAA’s core safety, security, reporting and regulatory functions will not be disrupted despite our dislocation from our National office.
Dunajstchik said he was “100 per cent certain” the building was safe, including the stairwells.
“The stairs cannot pancake. Any one of those levels of the stairs are independently anchored to the side,” he said. “If one fails, that does not mean that the others will fail as well.”
Remedial work was due to start on Friday.
Dunajstchik said the best-case scenario would see the building reopen in a week, but added “it could take us two weeks”.
Construction on the 48,000sqm building began in June 2007 and was completed by Fletcher Construction in September 2010 at a cost of $120 million.
Located opposite Wellington Railway Station, the Asteron Centre has two levels of car parks and 12 levels of office space.
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