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Squatter Falls Three Storeys In Derelict Wellington Building Stairwell

A squatter has been hurt after falling three storeys through a collapsed stairwell at a boarded-up building in downtown Wellington.

Initial reports said multiple people had been injured in the derelict Amora Hotel, but the incident happened at the Pringle House, next door.

The injured person waited hours for help, but was alive and able to speak, Fire and Emergency assistant commander Martin Wilby said.

Te Whatu Ora said on Tuesday afternoon the patient was in a critical condition at Wellington Hospital, and was undergoing treatment.

Firefighters were planning a floor-by-floor sweep of the building to see if there was anyone else inside, once it was deemed safe to enter.

A number of police cars, ambulances and fire vehicles were parked outside.

The company that owned the building said it had been under control of its insurance company until recently.

Jason Dunn from Prime Property said the empty building was sealed off with security fencing, and internal access has been partially blocked.

There had been issues with people breaking into the building a number of times, with fires being lit in the top floor.

"They were cutting through all of the steel, all of the ply shutters to actually access that. So we pulled all of that down, sealed the building off, put security fencing against all of the inner walls so that if they broke into the carpark building, they couldn't get in."

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Dunn said he had been through the building with five different police squads in the last three months to stop people from entering.

Pringle House, which was built in the late 1980s, was also formerly known as the Regional Council Centre and housed Greater Wellington Regional Council offices.

A 2013 property valuation report said it had been well maintained and fully occupied until it was found to be earthquake-prone after the 2013 Seddon earthquake. The report stated the building had "a very limited lifespan" without significant upgrading or redevelopment.

Meanwhile an earlier 2012 report found, at a minimum, the stairs would require retrofit to stengthen the building.

Greater Wellington Regional Council said it sold Pringle House in 2015 and had no further involvement with the building.

Rough sleepers there 'all the time'

Locals said the building had been a magnet for rough sleepers for months.

"They slept very often just on the walkway, under the small shelter here, against the wall of the building," Anna Proc, who worked next door, said.

But in recent months, she had noticed fewer people outside.

Gabriel Heimler said his landlord's garage, which shared an alleyway with Pringle House, had been broken into and lived in about two months ago.

"Since they have closed this building, they are all the time here, I think since Covid."

Dunn said since Prime Property had taken back control of the building from the insurer in February, they had gone to great lengths to secure the building, and rough sleepers had been going to great lengths to break in.

Feasibility studies were under way to decide what to do with the quake-prone building, he said.

Prime Property wanted Wellington City Council to help owners stop trespassers by cutting down "red tape", but council chief planning officer Liam Hodgetts said securing buildings and preventing unauthorised access were the owner's responsibility.

"We are not aware of any 'red tape' stopping the owner from getting on and fixing this building and it is for the owner to decide the future of the building, not the city council," he said.

"We had a pre-application (resource consent) meeting with the owner in mid-April to discuss options, and we will continue to provide support if it chooses to proceed with the earthquake repairs and strengthening."

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