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Update on Seismic Strengthening of the Wellington Town Hall

Positively Wellington Venues
Update on Seismic Strengthening of the Wellington Town Hall

OCTOBER 7 2011

Dear Clients,

I regret that we were not able to forewarn you about the article that appeared in the Dominion Post on Thursday regarding the seismic strengthening that has been planned for the Wellington Town Hall.

Unfortunately some out-of-date information ended up in the public arena and that triggered the story.

We had only just received details of the latest engineers report on the Town Hall last Friday (September 30). As a result we have met with our legal advisers to review whether there are any additional steps we should take. That work is underway and we will update you on their recommendations as soon as they come to hand.

In the meantime, I would like to provide you with some background information, reassure you of our commitment to public safety and update you on our plans to provide fit for purpose convention and performance venues while the Town Hall is strengthened.

Background

The Building Act 2004 resulted in additional requirements for strengthening buildings to help protect people from injury during an earthquake.

The Building Act requires councils to adopt a policy regarding earthquake-prone buildings. An earthquake-prone building is defined in government regulations as a building with strength that is one–third or less than that required for a new building in that site. The Wellington Town Hall has recently been assessed by Holmes Engineering as 20 - 25% of the current standard and it is therefore defined as earthquake-prone.

Under Council policy as it relates to the Town Hall, a “structure that as a whole may contain people in crowds or contents of high value to the community”, there is a ten-year window for earthquake strengthening.

However, the good news is that WCC has decided to fast track this process and to strengthen the Town Hall more quickly than that because of the importance of the venue to the City. $20.3 million has been allocated to the project which will see base isolators installed (similar to those used in the 1996 upgrade at Parliament). This will take the Town Hall to 140% of the current standard. At this stage it is proposed that the Town Hall upgrade commence in the fourth quarter of 2013 (from about October 2013) and it is likely that the project will take two years to complete.

In the meantime we will continue to occupy and use the building. The building is not classified as a dangerous building, and the risks associated with using the Town Hall (or any other earth-quake prone building for that matter) haven’t changed. We however want to be open and to make people aware of the status of the building. We will keep working with the Council to review the status of the Town Hall to make sure our safety practices are kept up to date. We will let you know if we consider that any changes should be made.

Timing and alternative venues
Positively Wellington Venues is working closely with the WCC to ensure that alternative convention and performance space that will more than meet the needs of the MICE and performance markets is in place before the Town Hall is taken out for strengthening. Business events and live performances are vitally important to Wellington and we are moving at speed to make sure we can offer facilities of a suitable international standard.

Legal requirements – venues and hirers
As noted above, we are reviewing our current processes and documents to see whether it would be desirable to enhance any provisions relating to earthquake preparedness. We are also going to review whether there is anything new that our “end users” - your delegates and patrons – may need to be made aware of.

For example, we may make more of our pre-event safety announcements (maybe along the lines of the in-flight safety briefings that airlines provide) and we will be reviewing and reassessing our earthquake preparedness and evacuation procedures. On all other counts it should be business as usual. Further questions

I realise that this announcement may lead to further questions and I am more than happy to receive questions from you or your clients. I will do my level-best to provide timely, fact based answers and we will look into adding a section to our website so we can share any FAQs with everyone.

Thank you
Once again, on behalf of the team here at Positively Wellington Venues, I apologise that we weren’t able to get to you with this update before the media did. Getting the right information to you in a timely and transparent way is an absolute priority for us and I will provide regular updates as new information comes to hand. The safety of all of the people who use our venues is our paramount concern. The tragic events in Christchurch have heightened awareness of the need to manage risk as best we can. Positively Wellington Venues remains committed to the safety of people and our venues.

Yours sincerely,

Glenys Coughlan
CEO
Positively Wellington Venues

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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