Inland Revenue is sourcing space around Wellington city as it appears likely the department won’t be returning to its main headquarters, the Asteron Centre, for at least three months.
Two weeks ago, about 1500 staff, including 1000 from Inland Revenue, were ordered to urgently leave the building and work from home because a seismic report had highlighted structural risks.
Another 180 Suncorp staff and 338 workers from Civil Aviation and the Aviation Security Service were also left without offices.
Suncorp said it would wait for a detailed plan for remediation, "which we've been advised may take up to three months," a spokeswoman said.
The Asteron Centre is owned by One Featherston Development Ltd, and one of its directors, property developer Mark Dunajtschik, has declined to comment, referring people back to Inland Revenue.
It was Wellington's largest commercial building when it opened in 2010.
This month is the second time Inland Revenue staff have been evacuated from the building, the other following the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake amid concerns about a stairwell. At that time, Dunajtschik argued the building was still safe to occupy .
This time the engineering report was sought as Inland Revenue weighed up whether to renew its lease.
In an email to staff, the department said engineers considered the building was fit for occupation and not dangerous under the Building Act.
However, "the thinking on seismic ratings has matured since the last seismic assessment was done and the new detailed one shows some areas of concern".
While the owner works on a plan for remediation, the department said on Thursday it was looking for interim office space.
"Staff have been told that IR is looking for short-term accommodation and the aim is to have office space in central Wellington for all of its Asteron-based people by the end of September."
Staff who could no longer work from home were a priority. Others were sharing space with other government departments or commuting to Inland Revenue’s base in Upper Hutt.
Meanwhile, the Wellington City Council has asked the building owners and their engineers to provide the detailed seismic assessment.
"We have written to the owner identifying the building as potentially earthquake prone. This means that the owner has 12 months to provide us with a finalised assessment confirming the building's status," council spokesman Richard MacLean said.
"Once the report is received it will be determined whether the building is earthquake-prone and an earthquake-prone notice issued if appropriate."
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