In an announcement released quietly on 4th July, by MBIE, there is some massive cause for celebration. “MBIE advises seismically vulnerable buildings can remain occupied” is the best, most welcome news I’ve heard for years – and I imagine that it will be music to the ears of many building owners around the city too.

“New guidance published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) today advises most seismically vulnerable buildings are not imminently dangerous and can remain occupied while seismic remediation work is planned, funded and undertaken.”

It then goes on to say:

“Compared to most business-as-usual risks, earthquakes are low probability,” says Dr Dave Gittings, MBIE’s Manager Building Performance and Engineering…. …“An NBS rating is not a predictor of building failure in an earthquake and buildings with low NBS ratings are not imminently dangerous” Read THIS.

This of course is a statement that would have been highly useful if it had come out at any stage in the past ten years, before thousands of people – tens of thousands? – were compulsorily moved from their warm, quiet, purpose-built and fully functional offices, to makeshift offices elsewhere, or even back home, as a perceived “better” alternative to their offices. The city building populations in Wellington have literally been decimated since 2013 and 2016 quakes, with buildings being emptied out and people “temporarily” shelved elsewhere.

Pretty vacant

That means, of course, that if we were sensible people, there would be a rush of people this morning, flooding the streets once more to go back to their old offices. There are, apparently, many buildings out there which are empty at the moment, waiting for their tenants to come back. I think that Asteron House is the biggest – Mark Dunajtschik’s ugly WAM monster opposite the Railway Station – still empty, apparently. There is also the Ministry of Health’s ugly Po-Mo monster near parliament, vacated only weeks ago. You can all come back now. There is even the entire City Council, who have vacated the two main buildings down at Civic Square. You can come back now too!! Even, perhaps, the Library!! Go on, tell me why not! And of course there is also Meridian’s prime waterfront HQ, looking sadly shuttered when I went past yesterday. Vacant from the waist up, although amusingly, the building’s automated external louvres were still working automatically, opening and closing the aluminium louvres to restrict the sun.

Yesterday’s waterfront: packed with people

But are we actually sensible people? I suspect not. There will have been some HSE bod who proclaimed loudly that “for reasons of risk, we must vacate”. Will they now eat their words and instead regurgitate the words of Dr Dave Gittings instead? “For reasons of complete lack of serious risk, and manageable serviceability, we can now go back, forthwith.”

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