Earthquake strengthening needed for old Post Office building
Earthquake strengthening needed for old Post Office
Rotorua’s iconic former Post Office building on Fenton Street, now part of the city’s i-SITE and Visitor Information Centre complex, has closed temporarily so the structure can be strengthened.
The decision by Rotorua District Council (RDC) follows a recent professional engineering assessment which revealed that the building qualifies as ‘earthquake-prone’ under government regulations.
However only the old Post Office structure by the Fenton Street roundabout, at the northern end of the visitor centre complex, has had to close as buildings in the rest of the complex are not earthquake-prone.
For the i-SITE and Visitor Centre, inter-regional coach operations and local tourism operators’ passenger pick-up services it will be business as usual from the site. But the souvenir shop, café and some office space tenants in the old building have moved out.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said the building was part of the city’s heritage and had an Historic Places Trust classification. She said the council was taking the precautionary action in the interests of public safety.
“While the old building has stood the test of time for more than a century, and survived a number of earthquakes throughout its history, we can’t afford to ignore lessons from the Canterbury earthquakes.
“It’s important that we set an example and act decisively to safeguard this historic building and, more importantly, protect the public.”
RDC Economic & Regulatory Services group manager Mark Rawson said the old Post Office building was being sealed off from the rest of the complex.
“We will then look at installing some temporary bracing to ensure the building is kept safe in the short term while we assess longer-term remedial options.
“As a further precaution we’ll also be removing the large bells from the clock tower to reduce the weight bearing on the building. The bells are estimated to weigh around two and a half tonnes and will likely have to be lifted out by overhead crane.
“We’re hopeful that a suitable long-term engineering solution can be identified for strengthening the building to acceptable earthquake standards, so it can be used again.
Mr Rawson said the old Post Office building was the only Rotorua District Council-owned structure assessed as earthquake-prone.