Why Palace Hotel Needed Demolition


An Auckland Council commissioned report into the collapse of the old Aurora Hotel opposte Sky City points the finger at the Wellington owners’ renovations. Prosecution is being considered and the council is seeking compensation.

Those owners, the Chow Group,  bought the building for over $3m and were turning the heritage hotel into a brothel in time for the RWC 2011 when the building started moving and the council ordered its demolition for safety reasons. The Wellington owners complained bitterly about the move.

Victoria St, the night the concern was raised

The council said  that when alerted and inspections were made, the council found the building had rotated and was constantly moving by up to 5 millimetres an hour towards the street. Large cracks had appeared in the building faade and windows were spontaneously breaking.

It was revealed that just a day before its collapse on November 17 last yea , a regular council inspection had taken place. The inspector was so concerned at the evident lack of support in the basement area that an instruction was issued citing non-compliance and the inspection failed. He instructed that no work was to be undertaken in the area of concern until the site engineer was available to inspect the works and report against the plans.

The report says the structural failure of the presently-named  Palace Hotel arose as a result of the foundations of the boundary wall on Victoria Street West sliding in towards the excavation at the basement floor level of the building while it was under refurbishment

The inwards movement of the bluestone foundation blocks at that location, in turn led to the consequential failure of that boundary wall on Victoria Street West. The loss of vertical and lateral support in that area caused the extensive damage observed in other parts of the building prior to its collapse.

“The movement of the basement wall foundations is attributed to a loss of lateral support caused by the removal of the timber ground floor, an over excavation of the foundations and the removal of a portion of the existing basement concrete floor designated to be retained in the approved plans.

“It was this combination of factors, rather than any of them individually, that caused the building structure to collapse.

All that was left

“Our investigation indicates that the stability of the basement retaining wall does not appear to have been adequately addressed in the building design calculations submitted for the most recent building consent. The extent to which the owner’s site engineers and architect should have recognised that they were placing the building at risk by not replacing sufficient lateral support as the works progressed to compensate for structural elements they were removing are matters for review.”




  1. Matt says:

    Will those who stated at the time that the Council was incompetent and had rushed to judgement now withdraw their suggestions?

    5mm/hour is pretty fast for something that’s not supposed to move at all, especially since, as I understand it, the speed accelerates as the structure gets closer to complete failure.

  2. Andrew says:

    Interesting to note the repetead use of the word “collapse”. I thought the building was torn down and didn’t actually collapse on its own?

    I’m not saying it wouldn’t have collapsed on its own had it not been demolished first, but saying that it did collapse isn’t really accurate, is it?

  3. Andrew says:

    (repetead = repeated)

  4. Nick R says:

    Andrew, looks like they have used the words collapse and structural failure interchangeably. You can have the structure collapse without the whole building coming down in one go.

  5. damian says:

    While I have no doubt that the engineers calcuations were not good enough, it still concerns me that the council gave the consent.

    A proper and through temporary works proposal should have been reviewed by the council before they gave the consent.

    The council should therefore worry about its own failings before launching into a compensation claim

  6. Andy says:

    Here we go again….

  7. Commuter says:

    Presumably the Heritage Branch of the former Auckland City Council were apprised of the fact that timber floors, joists, beams, etc would be ripped out and the basement walls demolished, etc? The fact that a consent was issued for this sort of work to a listed structure without a proper understanding of the implications of the proposed works beats me. I rather think we have yet to get to the bottom of this particular fiasco but I suspect it’s more than being a simple case of greedy developers, incompetent engineers and bad architects.

  8. mark says:

    “more than being a simple case of greedy developers, incompetent engineers and bad architects.”

    It looks to me more like a COMPLEX case of greedy developers, incompetent engineers and bad architects!

    And as for Council incompetence (the private participants obviously DID do something wrong, whether willfully or otherwise, whether Council has any implications remains to be seen) I wonder whether the words “an over excavation of the foundations and the removal of a portion of the existing basement concrete floor designated to be retained in the approved plans.” doesn’t point to the fact that Council did things right.

  9. greg says:

    Throw the book at these pimps!

  10. James B says:

    Make them rebuild it brick by brick and then decline them consent to turn it into a brothel.

  11. mark says:

    What’s so bad about it being intended as a brothel? You got something against “the oldest profession”, which is also perfectly legal in NZ?

    Let’s keep the discussion to whether or not there was culpable negligence.

  12. James B says:

    I don’t really have a problem with it. I just have a problem with old pubs being reappropriated for other uses, e.g the Carlton in Newmarket now being a Nood store. We have so few of the old pubs left and we seem to be losing more.

  13. Andrew Stevenson says:

    James B: I tend to agree, but the Carlton was a failure as a pub for the last few years.

    (I used to like it for that very reason, though - you could go there on a Friday night and find a comfy booth easily.)

    Better it gets used for a materialistic chain-store than torn down for lack of use.

  14. Nick R says:

    Perhaps there is a link between the failure of traditional pubs, the difficulty in getting around Auckland without driving, and ongoing measures to prevent drink driving?

    The best local pubs are the ones where you can walk home afterwards, only a handful of those about the inner city these days.

  15. James B says:

    @Andrew Stevenson: I agree that it is probably better than having them torn down. I just wish you could protect a building’s use as well as its physical presence.
    @Nick R: Yeah, we’re constantly told not to drink and drive, which is laudible, but in Auckland your choices are often to drink locally, fork out for a taxi or get a designated driver. Which is why I can’t understand why the Carlton would do so poorly surely there are plenty of people in Grafton, Newmarket or Parnell who would visit it. One thing I noticed in Wellington was how central everything was, which made socialising in the city so easy.

  16. Luke says:

    I wonder if these bars would be more successful if the pedestrian area was much improved. Victoria St is a bit of an expressway in this location. If there were wider footpaths there would be alot more foot traffic, and maybe room for a few outside tables.


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