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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

10-month wait before Clarendon Tower safe

10-month wait before Clarendon Tower safe

Last updated 05:00 13/04/2011
The earthquake-crippled Clarendon Tower will take up to 10 months to be made safe and remains at risk of collapse in an aftershock.

An engineering report obtained by The Press shows first-floor businesses should be able to recover files and equipment from July 20, but those on the 17th floor will probably have to wait until February next year.

The building suffered significant structural damage, and vertical and horizontal bracing of the building would be needed before it was safe, the report said.

While the building appeared repairable, it would not be until the building was made safe that engineers could make a full assessment of repairs needed. After the building was secured, businesses would be given only brief access, and their equipment and files could be destroyed by bracing work and months of exposure to the weather, the report said.

Civil Defence says the Clarendon Tower has a drop zone encompassing several city blocks along Oxford Tce.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said yesterday that the new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) could acquire land from building owners holding up the recovery.

He would not comment specifically on the Clarendon Tower, but said reopening the central city would take precedence over the recovery of files and equipment.

Inner-city demolition was progressing at an acceptable pace and building owners were being co-operative, he said.

Clarendon Tower property manager Mark Youthed, of Knight Frank, said a 10-month proposal was only an estimate, and he would be happy to consider faster options to make the building safe.

"That is the time it takes to make it safe," he said.

"It's a bloody big building."

It was too early to discuss potential government intervention, he said.

Law firm Anderson Lloyd occupied the building's 10th and 17th floors, and chief executive Bill Eade said he was surprised to learn how long it would take to get access.

Eade and other tenants attended a meeting with building management on Friday, and were told the building was at risk of collapse during an aftershock.

"The issues are quite scary," Eade said.

"If there is an aftershock, it could just pancake."

There were insurance complications on whether the firm could claim on equipment trapped in buildings, he said.

"That's still an open question, but we would be concerned if our insurers thought we could wait up to three years for some of this equipment," he said.

Duncan Cotterill partner Helen Smith said the timetable for recovering files from the Clarendon Tower was untenable, and the law firm would take independent engineering advice.

"We are not going to be stupid about it, but we just need to be sure we've explored every option," she said.

"There are critical documents in there. We have wills for people that have died."

Brian Vincent owns the seven-storey Equity House in Oxford Tce, which has been green-stickered but sits within the Clarendon Tower drop zone.

Equity House tenants wanted to reoccupy the building as soon as possible but had received little information from officials, he said.

"It's a long time frame [to prop up Clarendon Tower] and we are very anxious to get back in," Vincent said.

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