Wrecking balls to start work soon on 'The Bureau'

The Otago Harbour Board building in Port Chalmers. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
The Otago Harbour Board building in Port Chalmers. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
The wrecking balls have not moved in yet, but they will, Port Otago says.

The demolition of what remains of the old Waterfront Industry Commission building - built in 1946 and known as ''the Bureau'' - was expected to begin yesterday.

There were few obvious signs of activity yesterday, but Port Otago chief executive Kevin Winders confirmed the shell of the building was expected to be demolished sometime over the next two weeks.

Exactly when was not clear, and the timeframe could shift depending on contractors' needs and any archaeological discoveries at the site, he said.

Contractors were working to recycle some elements from the building and to save some ''nice timber'' from it, as well as a bluestone wall dating back to about 1890.

The process was expected to take about 10 to 14 days and the site should be cleared by the end of June, he said.

The demolition plan has prompted howls of outrage from sections of the community, led by Maritime Union of New Zealand Port Chalmers branch secretary Phil Adams.

The building was not a listed heritage building, but had strong links to the town's maritime history, including as the maritime union's branch headquarters and as the Port Chalmers epicentre of the 1951 waterfront dispute.

It was also earthquake-prone and contractors had recently removed a deteriorating asbestos roof, ahead of demolition of the rest of the structure, after Port Otago deemed the cost of refurbishment to be prohibitive.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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