By now you might have seen that New Zealand First has opposed the latest proposal to build a new building to house Members of Parliament, Ministers and the Parliamentary Service.
This is the latest – and probably final round – of a spat dating back to the 1990’s, when a $94 million plan to build a new building was scuppered because it was seen as a “Parliamentary Palace”. At the time, there was a vote to sell Bowen House by the then National Government. New Zealand First opposed it then and was right to do so. And in the current squabble it is rather rich of the Speaker of the House, David Carter to be harping on about national sovereignty when he was one of the elected representatives in the 1990’s to support the flogging off, of Bowen House.
However, the ground has metaphorically shifted since then. In a metaphorical sense, the political grounds on which New Zealand First rightfully stood against the rehousing of Members of Parliament, Ministers of the Crown and their staff as well the Parliamentary Service, in the 1990’s is not the same as that which it is trying to stand on now. It is also irrelevant to be injecting the politics of housing into an issue about having a work environment that is safe in an earthquake. In a physical sense the ground has also shifted. destruction wrought in Christchurch on 22 February 2011 where most of the deaths were in two buildings with design flaws. One was so badly flawed that a moderate aftershock on 26 December 2010 rendered it unsafe and it should have been evacuated then and there. The other suffered damage, but was able to continue functioning as a place of work – it was peak ground acceleration that even the 1986 standard was probably insufficient for.
After the August 2013 earthquake sequence, Parliament was inspected for quake damage. Assessments were done on all buildings including Bowen House which at the time had an 85% rating, which made it quite safe. However this was downgraded to between 55-65%, after an assessment of the soil the building sits on. And we also know for certain that the Parliamentary Press Gallery is NOT safe. At 15-20% we know that the level of the seismic code to which that part of Parliament is built would have failed in Christchurch, possibly catastrophically with potentially large loss of life. We also know like the places in Christchurch that failed catastrophically, these are places of work, not living, as New Zealand First irrelevantly points out. These are buildings that should be designed to be designed to stay standing in an earthquake and then safely release their occupants. A Parliamentary Press Gallery that only meets 15-20% of the seismic code is not safe and that yellow sticker warning on the door is there for a good reason.
For these reasons, I part ways with N.Z.F on this issue.