Submission by Stuart Walker
4 April 2014
SUBMISSION TO THE NCC 2014 ANNUAL PLAN
This submission is on my personal behalf as a Nelson Ratepayer and Resident, and concerns the TRAFALGAR CENTRE MAIN STADIUM ONLY (not the southern extension.)
Back in the late 1960’s, as a teenager, with my Father I attended a public meeting held at the then City Council Chambers near the church steps. I listened with much enthusiasm to the promoters of a proposed Trafalgar Centre.
After its construction, on many occasions in the intervening years, I have attended or taken part in various functions at this great city facility. I have even hung small yachts from the roof trusses at Boat Shows in the 70’s.
So it was with complete dismay I learned from the Nelson Mail in December 2013, that the Nelson City Council had decided to close the TRAFALGAR CENTRE (T.C.) to all activities with immediate effect.
As a result of this closure, in this intervening period from December to now, I have learned a great deal about the background to this hasty decision, apparently largely based on erroneous information – initially from your own Engineering Department.
It appears that the reason to close was largely as a result of perceived inadequate foundations – it was stated that the piles were only 3 metres deep.
From my own research, I have learned that the general land area occupied by the T.C. was last century used as a general City refuse tip-site up until the late 1940’s.
I am now aware that prior to the final T.C. foundation design being determined; (back in perhaps 1969) underground core samples were taken by Wilson Drilling in the area in question, so that appropriate pile depth and design could be established. (I understand the DSIR was often involved in analysing core samples, and it is likely that information on the T.C. samples are in the DSIR Lower Hutt Archives, if required.)
Subsequently the T.C. design was finalised, Building Consent obtained, and construction commenced. (Recently a 1971 photo was obtained showing foundation piling being prepared, with a long pile casing laying on the ground, and pile driving equipment close by.)
I am very familiar with this FRANKIPILE process, having observed it in use when the then Rural Bank (now Work & Income) building was being constructed next door to our Walker Marine Business, (now the Phoenix Arcade, opposite the Nelson Mail), in Bridge Street, in the early 1970’s. (From memory, those foundation piles went down to a similar depth to the T.C. ones.)
I have viewed the relevant drawings and specifications for the T.C., which state that the piles were to be driven to a nominal depth of 30 feet, (some 9.5 metres). This nominal depth of 30 feet depended on the strength of the base material they would encounter when being driven. This depth of 30 feet is mentioned many times in the building specifications.
It appears that your City Engineer, in spite of all the well documented construction details, specifications, and other historical records, still insists that these foundations are only 3 metres deep. I.e. barely deep enough to penetrate any layers of refuse material that the building might end up sitting on. Would any Engineer worth his Practising Licence, or even the then City Council Building Consents Department have allowed this? I THINK NOT ! - and yet I understand the decision to close the T.C. was apparently made largely on this erroneous assumption.
Nelson Ratepayers surely deserve to know just how this major error in judgement has occurred – AND BY WHOM?
I understand that the initial NCC internal discussions, and the subsequent Tonkin & Taylor Report on the T.C’s Earthquake Risk, was put out to outside Consultants for a Peer Review, or second opinion. Why didn’t all their resulting reports look into the plans and specs, and query this assumed foundation depth error by NCC? Are the Peer Reviewer’s at fault here as well? Did they even visit the Site? How were these Peer Reviewers selected? Were they known to each other? Are they unbiased and completely independent of each other? In view of how things have developed, I now have to wonder?
THE PILE DEPTH is obviously a Critical Dimension in the foundation design process, required not only to support the STRUCTURAL WEIGHT, but also any additional possible EARTHQUAKE STRESS LOADINGS. I appreciate that until the Christchurch earthquakes occurred, liquefaction effects were largely unknown, but the T.C is sitting on the firm bulbous base of some 98 piles that rest on sound material some 30 feet below ground level. There is also a significant grid of lateral support at ground level locking all the pile tops together. The whole structure has not settled over its life time.
I attended a City Council meeting on the 6th March 2014, when Gaire Thompson made his presentation at the public forum, and where reference was made to Kerry Neal’s group’s Response Document, which had already been received by the Council, (It was delivered to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Mr Louverdis on the 29th February). At that meeting, after a recess period, a response was read by Alec Louverdis, stating that the piles were DEFINITELY only three metres deep and confirmed that all the Consultant’s and Peer Reviewers were fully aware of his stated 3 metre pile depth.
PLEASE! WHERE DID HE GET THIS INFORMATION FROM?
I admire the Mayors decision to publicly release all the T.C. reports and plans on the 19th December 2013.
I also commend the Mayor, Councillor Davy and the Works & Infrastructure Committee for their decision to investigate the actual depth of the foundations and prove just what depth the piles actually go down to. THIS WAS A CRUCIAL DECISION TO MAKE, AND FOR THAT I THANK YOU.
I have had a recent wander around the T.C. and can only find evidence of test drilling (as reported in the Evening Mail) on an angle down towards 1 or 2 of the pile locations. So presumably this has been enough to prove that the pile depth is certainly deeper than the 3 metres that Mr Louverdis stated.
At the same visit to the T.C. I saw recent ground disturbance on the Haven Road side near the Main Entrance. I now understand that this was for a new heavier electricity mains cable that was recently installed from the Haven Road Substation. I do not know how far back this was organised, but wouldn’t it have been prudent to put it on hold at the time of T.C. closure back in December, when the future of the T.C. was suddenly put in doubt? Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing in the Engineering Department?
I understand the similarly designed Cowles Stadium in Christchurch, was built on similar estuary material. Has anyone from NCC checked on how it fared in their two earthquakes, and can we compare and learn from their experience to assess the Public Risk at our own T.C. Stadium?
When I discuss the T.C. closure, I invariably find that most people have the understanding, based on an Evening Mail article, that it is going to cost $27 million dollars to make the T.C. reusable, and so it will most likely be demolished. HOW COULD THIS BE?
I bet the promoters of the long proposed PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE (some of whom may be Councillors) will have rubbed their hands together with glee, when they read this in the paper!
This now makes me wonder- Is there a “HIDDEN AGENDA” here from these arts people, (and perhaps the engineering staff,) knowing that if the T.C. is gone, then their own pet project might become reality as a result? It bothers me that most other people I talk to are also suspicious of a hidden agenda. All this conjecture is not good for Nelson City.
As a Ratepayer, I am astounded that the NCC Engineering Department was able to persuade you as Councillors, and presumably your Legal Adviser back in December, that it was absolutely necessary to close the T.C. to all activity immediately in the light of what we now know to be a mainly ERRONEOUS ASSESSMENT OF STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY, by way of “initial” and “draft” reports. (These reports stated they were to be expanded on later.)
Have we yet received these “later” documents and what do they tell us?
This hasty decision is having a disastrous effect on all local sporting codes, who are unable to use the facility – apart from the lost Council Revenue, the Nelson Public’s loss of significant events and conferences, as well as the lost flow-on effect to the local business and accommodation communities.
In the Christchurch earthquakes, NO-ONE DIED FROM LIQUEFACTION – ONLY THE RESULT OF STRUCTURAL FAILURE.I now also understand that actual liquefaction only becomes apparent some minutes after a Quake commences.
I have to say that in an earthquake I would rather be in the T.C. than this Council Civic Building. I refer here to the 124 Notice that is on the wall outside the right hand door to this room. I have now heard rumblings about this Civic House building. These relate to the risk of structural sheer failure of the reinforcing of the Building which I believe to be High Tensile steel. The Christchurch earthquakes have shown us that High Tensile steel reinforcing is unable to withstand shock loading like normal mild steel reinforcing does.
I sincerely hope that common sense prevails in the case of the T.C., but now I have to wonder at who is going to report on all the other Council Owned Buildings yet to be assessed, and how accurate their Reports will be, if the same people are involved.
Surely as a city we can’t afford this same fiasco, when you get to look at this Civic House building, Nelson Airport, Stoke Memorial Hall, all the reclamation area and harbour facilities, Tahuna Motor Camp etc etc, as well as any other older or larger open structure. Will they all be closed in haste as well?
It appears to me that you as Councillors (being the final decision makers) have been badly let down by your Advisors on all fronts. – Your own Engineering Department, the engaged Consultants, the Peer Reviewers and your Legal Advisors. I accept that when you made the decision to immediately close the T.C. back in December, it was made on the poor advice you received, I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU ACTED IN GOOD FAITH.
Please don’t run scared now, be bold and accept that a wrong decision was made, TURN back the clock, ACT in good faith agaiN, AND OPEN THE DOORS.
If the decision to close the T.C. in December 2013 was based on erroneous engineering reports, then this decision should be rescinded immediately.
The building WAS constructed according to the plans and specifications, indeed your own Building Inspector of the day (who I understand was the late Bruce McLean) would have undoubtedly ensured this.
I am very concerned that the Legal opinion given to the Council may have been founded on the same erroneous reports which concluded that its poor structural integrity would likely cause catastrophic failure in an earthquake - and result in major risk of loss of life. (If in fact it was even being used at the time of an earthquake.)
I now note that on the door of the main T.C. entrance, the original 124 Earthquake Risk Notice dated 12th December 2013 has now been replaced with a different one dated the 27th March 2014.
This new notice now states that:
“The Trafalgar Multipurpose Event Centre (its proper full name) must be either:
A – Strengthened to 34% of the new building standard. Or
B – Remove the earthquake risk (which I assume to mean, be demolished).
And here’s the critical bit – either A or B have to be undertaken by the 12th December 2018, over 5 years into the future from 12th December 2013.”
This notice also clearly states that there is an Appeal Period of 12 months from the 12th December 2013 – if the building owners (NCC) are not happy of this Section 124 Notice determination.
It is signed by a Mr Martin Brown – your Manager of Buildings.
Surely if it required immediate closure, this would have been stated and the reason given.
But it was obviously not felt necessary by your own Mr Brown.
What and whose information did he use to determine his findings?
We need to get to the bottom of all this.
There was no urgency to make any hasty decisions – let alone close it down.
I am sure that in time all will be revealed.
I feel most thinking T.C. users would be happy to pass a “NON-LIABILITY” sign when they enter the T.C. at their own risk. I know I would. Each of us would make our own call to enter or not.
All our lives are full of risks – just don’t get paranoid over it!
THE REALITY IS THE T.C. HAS NOT RECENTLY SUFFERED A SUDDEN OR UNEXPECTED SEISMIC OR STRUCTURAL FAILURE, OR BEEN DAMAGED BY A FIRE EVENT, IT SHOWS NO SIGNS OF CRACKING OR MOVEMENT, OR FOUNDATION SETTLEMENT, NO SIGNS OF LIKELY PILE CORROSION, AND YET SUDDENLY IT IS SUCH A SERIOUS EARTHQUAKE RISK YOU WENT AND CLOSED IT!
I URGE YOU TO OPEN THE DOORS IMMEDIATLEY, AND GET THINGS BACK TO NORMAL - TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND PROPERLY AND PRUDENTLY RE-ASSESS THE WHOLE SITUATION IN A CALM AND REASONED WAY.
THIS IS WHAT YOU AS COUNCILLORS WERE ELECTED BY THE RATE PAYERS TO DO.
After having attended the Council Meeting of Thursday 17th April, just a few days ago, when the T.C. was an Agenda item, Councillor Davy confirmed that the NCC now accept that the piles ARE 11 metres deep.
THIS WAS A DEFINING STATEMENT!
The significance of which appeared to be largely lost on most of those present. (There was no expression of surprise or shock or dismay from anyone! (Or had you all been pre-warned?)
This obviously must now have a major impact on all the structural reviews that have taken place ever since the T.C. was subjected to Earthquake Risk Assessments as directed by a Resolution in NCC minutes of February 2013, some 14 months ago.
I understand from Councillor Davy’s comments that the NCC is still awaiting final reports, due early May, when further deliberations will take place on the Centre’s future.
The T.C. doesn’t need to be closed while this process takes place.
Does this now confirmed pile depth make all the prior assessments irrelevant?
What considerable cost have the Ratepayers been put to with the whole erroneous structural report fiasco? I am certainly not alone on this matter.
Thank you for the opportunity to bring my concerns to your attention.
36 Enner Glynn Road