Mayor 'spreading fear' over Celtic columns

Two of the four Celtic Columns of Wisdom in Dee St, Invercargill. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Two of the four Celtic Columns of Wisdom in Dee St, Invercargill. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark’s questioning of the safety of the city’s Wachner Pl Celtic Columns of Wisdom has been rubbished by a city architect, who says the mayor is spreading unnecessary fear.

It has also emerged the Invercargill City Council has no record of the columns being checked after the collapse of Stadium Southland.

The four Dee St columns, along with other constructions, should have been inspected in 2014, after their design engineer, Tony Major was expelled from the Institute of Professional Engineers for his part in the Southland Stadium collapse in 2010.

The council was now working to confirm if an assessment was completed after 2014.

Mr Clark said earlier this month he had been advised the pillars were a possible earthquake risk.

They were potentially under the earthquake prone (National Building Standard Code) level of 34%.

Council infrastructure group manager Erin Moogan said, when contacted, assessments of the four columns on Dee St had recently been undertaken as part of the Wachner Pl/Esk St West consultations.

Ms Moogan said they were waiting to hear back from a structural engineer before it made "an informed decision about how to proceed".


Invercargill architect Bob Simpson contacted the Otago Daily Times and said he believed the council raising doubts about the columns’ structural stability was rushing a problem which could lead to cost overruns.

He had seen the original design drawings and in his opinion the columns were safe.

The columns had substantial foundations that were more than compliant with earthquake and building codes, and post-structural strengthening would not be difficult if it was needed, he said.

One report said the geotechnical conditions were adequate, and above the earthquake risk of 67% National Building Standards.

He conceded Wachner Pl had not worked well as a public space, but believed Mr Clark was rushing things.

"Rushing projects has its own risks, including not defining the problems well, not providing good lasting solutions, not completing projects on time and having major costs overruns."

The mayor was causing unnecessary fear, Mr Simpson said.

He did not see the point in demolishing structures unless there was a good reason.

"Otherwise, we wouldn’t have any historic buildings around anywhere ... and columns are very much a part of our heritage ... it’s a Celtic and Scottish thing," he said.

"You don’t demolish things for the sake of it.

"It seems to me they haven’t been really considered as part of our urban landscape. I can’t think of any practical reason why they should be removed."

— Toni McDonald