Ministry begins vacating building

Attributable to Iona Holsted Secretary for Education 

"The Ministry of Education has been working with engineers to better understand the impact of the National Engineering Assessment Guidelines on our Bowen Street building.

The guidelines are based on the most up to date engineering practices and have found that Mātauranga House, which was previously strengthened above 90%NBS, is now rated by our engineers at 25%NBS, due to the concrete floors. Other aspects of the building continue to rate well.

Alongside the engineers report and following a health and safety assessment, we have decided to act and our staff in Mātauranga House have been asked to work from home.

Our immediate focus is on supporting our staff to transition to remote working and providing them with the resources they need to continue to deliver services to the education sector.

Despite the change in working arrangements for our Mātauranga House staff, it is business as usual, alongside our Te Mahau (regional)  offices across the motu.

We have allowed until the end of day Monday 30 May for staff to make the transition to remote working. We expect our staff will work from home until September while we plan our longer-term working arrangements.

We will keep our staff updated and connected throughout the process as we develop our future national office accommodation plans.

We know this will be challenging for some and thank all our staff for their resilience to date and for supporting us through this transition."  

Media questions and answers

When was the building assessed for seismic structural performance and why?

In 2015, a year before we moved in, Mātauranga House was rated 90-100% New Building Standard (NBS) or ‘low risk’. This rating, plus the building’s relatively good performance during the Kaikōura earthquake, meant it was not immediately prioritised for a re-assessment under our regular and ongoing property re-assessment schedule.  

The physical characteristics of the building have not changed. Rather, the difference in the rating reflects a new set of technical guidelines for seismic assessment released by MBIE in 2017, called the Seismic Assessment of Existing Buildings (2017), or ‘Red Book’. The section of the Red Book dealing with concrete buildings was revised in 2018 to include the latest knowledge following the 2016 Kaikōura Earthquake. This section is called the ‘Yellow Chapter’. 

There was a period of consultation following the Red Book and Yellow Chapter releases. Engineers now use these guidelines to do assessments, which has resulted in recent rating changes to many buildings in the Wellington CBD. 

When did you receive the report and what steps have you taken to come to this decision?

We received the final Aurecon report on 13 April 2022. Since then we have shared it with the property owner, sought and considered additional information, requested a peer review from the property owner’s engineer, and conducted our own health and safety assessment.  

Our health and safety assessment considered factors such as the building’s height and location near a known fault, as well as the information provided by engineers.  

How many staff are affected?

Mātauranga House has a capacity of 1,056. We are not always at full capacity in the building, but this gives an indication of the number of staff involved. 

Will staff who cannot work at home have alternate working arrangements provided?

We have a limited amount of  space available within the Wellington CBD for the small number of people who cannot work at home, and will consider other temporary work sites over the next few months. 

How long will remediation work take?

It is too early in the process to know at this stage

Will you return to the building once the remediation work is completed?

It’s too soon to know. If not this building it will another building. We’ve got the technology and capabilities to do this now while we work through longer-term solutions. 

Will staff be compensated for the extra costs incurred working from home?

We are actively considering this.  

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback