Loans mean Knox College can be strengthened, extended

Knox College has funding for earthquake-strengthening. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Knox College has funding for earthquake-strengthening. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
The future of Knox College has been secured after the commission which runs the Dunedin student residential hall announced yesterday it had sourced loans to fund $11.3 million worth of earthquake-strengthening and extension work.

This comes after Dr John Kernohan, appointed by the Presbyterian Church as chairman of a new commission to govern the college earlier this year, said in September Knox could close if earthquake-strengthening was not carried out on the main building.

The 103-year-old main building was rated at less than 20% of new building standard (NBS) for earthquake strength. Any building rated less than 34% of NBS is classified "earthquake-prone".

Dr Kernohan said yesterday he only became confident of sourcing the funds "a couple of weeks ago" when the cost of the building work started to become apparent.

"If it had turned out to be a couple of million more, then that might have been outside our reach," he said.

The strengthening work, set to begin in the next two weeks, was expected to cost about $8 million. Increasing the capacity of Knox College and Salmond College, which is also owned by the Presbyterian Church, was expected to cost about $3.2 million. A total of 63 extra beds would be added to the colleges, with an extra 24 at Salmond and 39 at Knox.

The goal was to have all buildings over 75% of NBS by the start of next year, Dr Kernohan said.

Extending the number of rooms and reducing the number of staff by a total of 4.5 full-time equivalent positions would help ensure the loans could be repaid. The loans came from Otago University, church sources and the BNZ.

Dr Kernohan said the commission regretted the job losses, but was pleased the future of Knox had been secured.

"I am really happy ... the work will be done this summer, so there is no threat at all that we will have to close part or all of Knox College next year, or indeed at any time in the foreseeable future."

Dr Kernohan said Project manager Arrow International would use a variety of contractors to do the work, which was expected to be completed over the summer holidays.

Fire protection work also had to be carried out to meet building consent conditions.

"We will have to spend at least as much on upgrading the fire protection in the main building as we actually spend on the basic earthquake-strengthening," Dr Kernohan said.

Otago University chief operating officer John Patrick said the university was pleased strengthening work was being carried out, but declined to comment on the amount it loaned to Knox for the work.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz