Palms safe, rumours spooking - owner

Posted 04 Mar 2012 by MediaStuff Popular
Posted in Business , Media
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False rumours that The Palms shopping centre in Christchurch is dangerous are scaring customers, the mall's owner says.

The Palms was closed for six months last year for $20 million worth of repairs and strengthening after the February and June earthquakes, and again for two days after the December quakes.

Its staged reopening was completed with the cinema complex in November.

Its owner, Sydney-based AMP, said it was getting daily queries from shoppers spooked by text messages or false warnings on social networking sites that the mall would collapse.

"The Palms mall is at high risk of collapse in an earthquake as its columns are wrapped and not fixed," one text message reads, quoting an engineering company as the source of the information.

Community message boards on the Trade Me website are full of talk about The Palms and the three other big Christchurch malls, usually quoting a friend or neighbour who knows a builder, engineer or mall staff member. Westfield moved to address rumours about its Riccarton mall in June.

AMP spokesman Scott Gillespie said The Palms repairs were world class, and the structure was reassessed after every quake.

He said the rumours were "unfortunate" given the work done by engineers Buller George Turkington and project managers Arrow International.

"It creates an element of fear; people don't want to go into some parts of the mall or the car park, but it's untrue."

Gillespie said AMP had posted a video about the repairs on the mall website in an attempt to address public concerns, but the rumours had continued.

"We are saying it all the time but people just don't believe us."

He said the building had a top A seismic rating on a structural engineering scale of A to E.

Repair work done to The Palms, which was damaged by liquefaction as well as shaking in February, included repouring concrete floors and repairing columns in the shopping centre and the car park.

Arrow International project manager Brett Christie, a former structural engineer, said he had overseen all work at the mall in the past year and "I feel safer here than at home".

A carbon fibre reinforced polymer technique used to repair 400 columns at the mall was stronger than steel. He believed the rumours of a "patch-up job" may have started from people working on the site.

"That frustrates me because people don't understand what we are doing. This is a fantastic way of repairing buildings. I saw it tested at the university and I'm absolutely blown away by its performance."

Buller George Turkington director and structural engineer Stuart George said the mall had been "rigorously checked and very robustly repaired".

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