A large and sharp earthquake rattled Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand at 10.07 pm today.
The 4.5 magnitude quake was widely felt in the North Island and caused alarm among many people in the city. Fortunately the quake was very short lived and isn’t thought to have caused much damage. It was centred in the sea north of the Cook Strait.
Wellington City Council has been working through 3800 properties identified as being potentially unstable in a moderate earthquake. At least 130 properties, including 21 heritage buildings, have been confirmed as vulnerable.
Compare that to Christchurch where, in mid 2010, 490 heritage buildings were deemed to be at risk of collapse in a moderate earthquake and needed to be earthquake-strengthened.
Concerns were raised over how to pay for the estimated cost of the necessary work – $169 million. Some Christchurch property owners said that earthquake strengthening would make their investment worthless, as the costs would be greater than the value of the building. In contrast Christchurch Heritage Trust and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust recommended that the city council promote strengthening to 67% of full code levels instead of the policy-stated 33% to preserve heritage fabric.
Christchurch ratepayers were faced with a $90 million bill to assess all potentially earthquake-prone buildings as part of a planned new policy which was considered on 14 June 2010. But a Christchurch City Council staff paper, prepared for the hearing, revealed putting new time frames could prompt property owners to demolish rather than upgrade their buildings.
Wellington council is among property owners potentially affected by a moderate earthquake and has budgeted $42 million during the next 10 years to bring some of its buildings up to code. Most of that will go toward the town hall and next-door Municipal Office Building. Other buildings include the Opera House, the old Basin Reserve grandstand, Thistle Hall and the old chest hospital, which the SPCA wants to redevelop.