Media release: SDC to vacate earthquake-prone building

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One of the three buildings that comprise Southland District Council’s headquarters in Forth Street, Invercargill, has been rated as earthquake prone and staff who work in the building will be relocated into temporary leased office space elsewhere in the city.

Following a detailed seismic assessment of Council’s head office buildings, the 1940s brick building closest to Clyde Street was rated at less than 34% of the New Building Standard (NBS), the level at which a building is considered “earthquake prone”.

The engineers’ report emphasises that they consider the building poses “little to no risk to life”, in normal conditions, but Council has made the decision to permanently move out of the building. This will happen “in a timely and controlled manner over the next few months’’, chief executive Steve Ruru said.

While there is no legislative requirement to vacate the building, Mr Ruru said Council’s first priority is to the safety of its staff and customers and it is clear that the risks change in the event of a significant earthquake.

“We are not prepared to take the risk, however small it may be,’’ he said.

“Council also has an obligation to continue to provide services to its communities as quickly as possible in the event of a natural disaster.

“Our ability to do this would be severely compromised if one of our main buildings had suffered major structural damage.”

The seismic assessment was carried out as part of preliminary work in a project to identify a new permanent building solution for Council, which was included in year five of SDC’s 2018-2028 Long Term Plan. The engineers’ findings were peer reviewed.

Employees who work in the 1940s building are being offered the opportunity to relocate and work elsewhere until temporary facilities are ready, with the full support of Council management and their colleagues.

The decision to vacate the 1940s brick building does not affect public access to Council’s customer reception area. This is located in the central annex building of the three adjoining buildings that make up Council’s headquarters. The third building is the tower block at the western end of the Forth Street complex.

Structural engineers have yet to complete their assessment of these two buildings, but that report is expected to be finalised within the next two weeks.

Council employees will continue to work in both of those buildings in the meantime.

Council is looking at office space options in Invercargill. Once a lease has been secured staff will begin moving into the new temporary premises.

It is anticipated this process will take several months to complete.

Council will carry out detailed seismic assessments of all of its offices and libraries as soon as possible.

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