The Taupo District Council is being forced to urgently relocate about 125 staff after asbestos was found at its Lake Terrace offices.
Asbestos was discovered on the roof and exterior cladding of the lakeside offices when painters inspected the property ahead of giving it a spruce up.
An investigation by an independent contractor was commissioned which confirmed some of the asbestos was friable in the front part of the building.
Friable means it can easily disintegrate and enter the air. It poses significant health risks if it is disturbed. Asbestos, if inhaled, is linked to cancers such as mesothelioma and a range of other serious health issues.
This prompted chief executive Gareth Green to take prompt action with staff informed on Friday.
“The building is deteriorating and the risk to our staff, our visitors and the environment around the building is escalating,” Green said.
“We have received advice that unless we act the most likely consequence is significant harm. Like all employers, we have a responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act to keep our staff and the public safe, and in this case that means that we need to exit this building until the risks are eliminated.”
At an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday councillors must decide what the future of the council offices will be.
Options include decontaminating the building, expected to take up to nine months and cost millions of dollars or rebuilding the council building either in part or entirely.
A full re-build would cost up to $13 million whereas a part build would cost around $8 to $9 million.
Completely rebuilding the council offices would see a rate rise of about two per cent.
With the council building needing to be earthquake strengthen in the near future Green said it would likely to be cost effective to conduct renovations of the council offices at the same time.
“It will cost a million to relocate into temporary premises,” he said. “It might not make sense to do that then leave again.”
Alternative accommodation options for the council operations are being investigated. Green said the length of the relocation would be dependent on the final decision the council reached.
Two workshops had been held with the Council over the past two weeks to seek direction on how best to address the issues.
They had been held in confidence for reasons of health and safety.
The extraordinary council meeting will be held on Thursday, April 13 in the council chamber starting at 9am.
Councillors will be asked to confirm their preferred option. If the decision to rebuild the office was decided community consultation would then be sought as part of the 2017/18 draft Annual Plan process starting May 1.