Invasive testing on quake-affected Wellington buildings prompts urgent recommendations

The results of intrusive engineering assessments of 64 Wellington buildings identified as having been most affected by the Kaikoura earthquake has dished up nine recommendations for local authorities to consider, some of them urgent.

Following the November quake, the Wellington City Council ordered the detailed evaluations of in the first instance, 80 buildings which had similar characteristics as Statistics House, seriously damaged in the shake.

The number was reduced to 64 buildings. A Kestrel Group technical report produced for Wellington City Council released today, reveals nine or 13 per cent of the buildings assessed had distributed damaged in frames or floors, or both. Forty three per cent suffered no damage.

Wellington's Mayor is adamant the city is safe after tough engineering assessments on at risk buildings following the Kaikoura quake. Source: 1 NEWS

The report's made nine recommendations, including a suggestion the council get a better understanding of ground conditions across the city and the region, to better estimate seismic demands on buildings after an earthquake.

It's also suggested the experimental testing of precast concrete components is needed urgently after the Kaikoura, Canterbury and Cook Strait earthquakes showed how vulnerable they can be when deformed during strong ground shaking.

Wellington City Council and GeoNet are both urged to support expanded monitoring on buildings and on the ground to quickly provide information on the shaking demands and likely impacts after an earthquake.

More than 100 buildings in the capital have been identified as having potentially dangerous frontages which could fall down in a quake. Source: 1 NEWS



Wellington woman denies charges of importing euthanasia drug, aiding suicide

A retired Wellington teacher has denied helping another woman commit suicide.

Susan Austen, 66, is facing one charge of aiding Annemarie Treadwell to commit suicide and two of importing the class C drug pentobarbitone - a drug used in other countries for voluntary euthanasia.

Ms Austen, who is the former chairperson of the Wellington branch of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, appeared at Wellington District Court this morning where she entered not guilty pleas.

She has elected for a trial by jury.

The charge of aiding suicide carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Before her death on June 6 last year, 77-year-old Annemarie Treadwell wrote a submission backing a petition in support of assisted dying.

She said she had been living with chronic pain, clinical depression, and short term memory loss and didn't want to be a burden to her children.

Ms Austen was arrested soon days after police staged a breath testing checkpoint to gather details about euthanasia supporters leaving an Exit International meeting at her house in Lower Hutt late last year.

The checkpoint is currently under investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Supporters from the group, wearing pink hearts with "Suzy" written on them, packed the court room and stood outside with placards.

Susan Austen entered a not guilty plea in the Wellington District Court today. Source: 1 NEWS

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Tourism funding boost for local government 'needs to be bigger'

Additional tourism project funding announced by the Government yesterday is a step in the right direction, but more money would have been ideal, according to Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts.

New tourism Minister Paula Bennett yesterday announced a total fund of $25.5m per year over four years to help local councils fund things like more toilets, car parks and freedom camping facilities - up from a fund of about $11m per year.

Councils will need to apply for the funding on a project-by-project basis, and cash-strapped councils with few ratepayers and many tourism opportunities will be shown flexibility in the proportion of funding their project receives.

Mr Roberts says $100m per year would have been ideal to push tourism forward, but also says "we've got to take what we've been given".

"We understand that there are competing budget priorities for the Government ... absolutely we would have liked a bit more money ... the important thing at this stage is that they've got the target right," he told TVNZ1's Breakfast today.

"The design of the fund, what it's targeting is all right on the money ... the question that will come to be answered in time - are there enough dollars in the pot?"

The demand from councils will be instrumental in any adjustments which could be made to the funding model, Mr Roberts said.

"I think it's now up to local councils around the country to put forward their bids - put in their projects ... if the fund in the first year is heavily oversubscribed, I think the message will be fairly clear that the fund needs to be bigger," he said.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa CEO Chris Roberts says the funding boost is welcome, and well-designed, but there’s a question around whether $25.5m per year is enough. Source: Breakfast