Nelson Residents Association


TC - Stuart Oral

Verbal Submission to NCC Annual Plan – 13th May 2014

Stuart K Walker


I assume that all Councillors and those others involved in the Trafalgar Centre will have read my written submission, so in view of time constraints now; I will read a summary as quite a lot has happened meantime.


It appears that the main reason to close the T.C. was largely based on the erroneous assumption of the pile depth, and perceived inadequate foundations. It was stated that the piles were only 3 metres deep.


If you are asked to assess a building’s likely Risk of Earthquake damage, surely commonsense tells you that you start with the Plans & Specifications, ground type and conditions. These detail all the buildings foundations and structure.


So where did your Mr Louverdis get his 3 metres from?

Also if you want to Peer Review a document seeking to get an unbiased report from a fresh pair of eyes and minds, you don’t engage a Company already associated with the authors of the report to be reviewed – you go to their opposition.


I was asked last week by a local Building Designer – How come the T.C. plans have been lost? He assumed this, because he knew full well that a 3 metre pile depth was just plain crazy, and would never have been allowed. So he thought the plans must have been lost – why else would they have to drill down,to confirm their depth?


THESE… are a copy of a set of T.C.plans and specifications, on paper and on disc. They were obtained from you Building Department Archives where they have quietly languished for 40 years. They are certainly not lost or misplaced, but apparently they were not referred to by Mr Louverdis, or this whole sorry saga might not have occurred.


These specs clearly state many times that the pile depth was to be nominally 30 feet. (Under Foundations page ten – 30 feet, page 11 – 30 feet, 30 feet, 30 feet, page 12 – 3 more times, and yes they are all in Imperial Dimensions.


I ask you to cast your minds back to the recent Council Meeting of the 6th March, after Gaire Thompson had addressed you.

Because of this 3 metre pile depth being raised by a number of persons, the Mayor rightly requested Mr Louverdis to go away, and come back once and for all, with a confirmed pile depth.

After an hour or so he returned and stated that (and I quote) “Yes, the piles were definitely only 3 metres deep, and that all the other Engineers and Peer Reviewers were fully aware of this 3 metre depth.”

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard and was completely dismayed. Where on earth did he get this 3 metres from? Mr Louverdis has been quoted in the Nelson Mail of March 7th 2014 that “the piles of the main section are 3 metres deep, but it was not the depth that was ultimately important, but the type of the piles and foundations”. This is a bit like saying; you can build straight on top of topsoil.

THESE…plans and specs quite clearly show a huge quantity of driven piles with a bulbous base going down to firm load-bearing material some 30 feet (or 9.1 metres) below ground level.

Over three times Mr Louverdis assumption.

THIS is why the T.C. shows no sign of settlement over the past 40 years.


When I first looked at the T.C. plans and specs some months ago, it took at least 30 seconds to find the index and go to the Foundation Section, and there it was, 30 feet, 30 feet, 30 feet. Yes… IN THESE readily available documents. Not lost, not misplaced.


Your infrastructure Committee, in view of the above depth conjecture, wisely decided to prove what depth all the piles were, by drilling at an angle downwards to meet them. Surprise, surprise! (After the first drill hit the water main) they encountered a pile at an unpublished depth, but certainly greater than 3 metres.

Apparently this drilling investigation was sufficient, because at your 17th April meeting, after a question from Councillor Barker, Councillor Davy confirmed that the piles were actually 11 metres deep – and not a murmur from around this table was heard! I couldn’t believe it.


Then I heard that Tonkin & Taylor Engineers were promoting the idea that the concrete piles were likely to be eroded over time, and that the pile re-enforcing steel was likely to be corroded as a result. So you dug down and exposed two of the piles and foundations on the Rutherford Park side to confirm this.

I had a look at this before it was back filled and saw where the concrete had been chipped away to expose the steel reinforcing.

However, another surprise here, it is all in pristine condition, and in case anyone wants to deny this, here are some photos I’ve taken.

I also understand that some 75 mm core samples were taken from the piles, and these are still away being analysed. Yes these vandals drilled several 75mm diameter holes clean through the tops of the piles. Please ensure these pile concrete core samples are returned to Nelson and retained by NCC – I have a feeling they made be required again, in the not to distant future.

Then I read in the paper on the 30th April, that although the piles are now 30 feet, there is now a matter of the Stadium North Wall being suspect and that in an earthquake it could fail and block the exit. Surely another great reason to close the doors!

So I arranged to meet the NZ Fire Service Fire Safety Officer in Richmond and took with me my photos of the 12 or so Fire Exits from the Building. His comment was, if the wall is in fact suspect, then the Fire Safety Plan would need to be amended until this wall was put right – “and it would be no big deal.”


It is as if someone or some people are saying “Help! We’ve been proved wrong over the pile depth, and now there is no deterioration of the piles integrity, Please, please, find something – anything! - wrong with the T.C. to justify our decision to close it!

It appears as if there is a clandestine, determined, effort to condemn the T.C.





            You see the T.C. WAS constructed according to the plans and specs and has shown no signs of cracking, or movement, or settlement or given reason for concern, for the last 40 years.

Reviews of the Christchurch earthquake damage have clearly shown that buildings constructed to the Codes and structural designs of the same era as the T.C. actually suffered less damage in their two earthquakes than other younger and more recently constructed buildings.


I now refer to the Document Kerry Neal’s group have supplied you with on the 29th February 2014 in response to your Engineers and Reviewers Reports.

For reasons best known to yourselves, you have deliberately chosen to ignore and not respond to them. The origins of this well-researched document are purely from THESE T.C. plans and specs.


I find this Council’s attitude to Mr Neal’s report absolutely arrogant and absolutely appalling, at best.


I understand the new northern extension to the T.C. was to be started last October 13th with its demolition, and a completion date of February 2015.

What is the current status of this work?



The first task you face will be the most onerous one, and you will find great difficulty with this.

You must ADMIT publically, that the closure of the T.C, was based on the erroneous advice and reports you received.

In plain language, there has been a “stuff up” of monumental proportions over the Earthquake Risk Assessments. The longer you leave admitting this, the more difficult it will become for you. You will all feel a lot better for doing this – trust me. Once you have done this, and the citizens and ratepayers understand that you acted in good faith, then you will gain more respect and support again.


The second task – open the doors. The 124 Notice says you still have 4 and half years to complete any work to achieve 34% of Building Code.

Next, have confirmed, exactly what foundation depth was used on the earthquake risk assessments by Mr Louverdis, Tonkin & Taylor and the Peer Reviewers.

If they are all based on the 3 metre depth then this will make all their reports INVALID AND WORTHLESS. (I don’t anticipate a happy outcome here!)


The most sensible advice I have heard so far, has come from the Christchurch Engineer Michael King, when he recently spoke with you, – after reportedly saying that your Engineers advice to likely spend $27 million dollars was :Scary and Silly”, he said “ BRING IN DIFFERENT ENGINEERS AND FIND A SOLUTION.” YES, BRING IN DIFFERENT ENGINEERS.

And here it’s appropriate to refer to a Government Document for the Guidance on Detailed Evaluation of non residential buildings. (This document to be used after an earthquake has occurred.)


On the first page headed Document Status, the first paragraph, last sentence, I quote “NOTE THAT ABSOLUTE SAFETY IN A BUILDING CANNOT BE ACHIEVED”.


FINALLY – Go have a wander around the T.C. – the place not only looks closed, but worse – abandoned and unloved – I have recently walked around it at night (silly me) and disturbed young and old vagrants parked up in the southern extension loading bays. Plastic cable ties are easily cut and do-not hold the portable fence screens in place. With winter coming, next these people will be lighting fires and gaining access inside.


I understand it is currently being used as a virtual warehouse storage facility with heavy forklifts operating inside. This won’t be doing the floor any good. Perhaps your Mr Arthur Nelson should check on this.

Please mow the grass and remove the outdated Bill Hailey Junior Concert posters from the main doors. I hate to think what visitors to Nelson think of it at present.

Just yesterday I took these photos of the southern loading bay – again, fences on the ground and a sign attached to one of the fences which says boldly – BRAVO! NELSON – WE ARE BUILDING A MORE CONVENIENT CONVENIENCE,


I’m really lost for words at the incompetence of it all.


The T.C. is still a City Public Multi Purpose Asset. You should be treating it with respect, not trying to condemn it.

It would look great “tarted up” with a bit of colour added to bring it up to date.


This whole litany I have outlined in my initial Submission, and now this verbal one today, could have been avoided if your Staff had listened to Mr Neal and his Associates, and appropriately acted with courtesy and respect, when they first expressed their concerns many months ago.


Thank you for allowing me extra time for my submission, but you can see I view it as really scary and serious stuff that we as Ratepayers are now confronted with over the T.C.

(I must say I have not enjoyed presenting all this to you today, but I strongly feel it all needed to be said.)

Thank you again.

Stuart Walker

36 Enner Glynn Road – Stoke - Nelson