One person has suffered “moderate to serious” injuries in a vacant and condemned Wellington office block this morning.

The Pringle building opposite the Michael Fowler Centre was structurally damaged when the Kaikōura earthquake struck in 2016 and remained closed after that.

Property manager Jason Dunn from Prime Property said he understood a man fell through a damaged stairwell in the building yesterday evening.

“We sweep the building and the areas that are accessible on a weekly basis. But yeah, this chap got in there and I think he fell last night.”

“In the last 90 days we probably ushered and issued trespass notices to probably 18 different people who were staying there at different times,” Dunn said.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) incident controller Murray Pike said the person had “moderate to serious injuries”.

He said firefighters made a forced entry to the building to extricate the person around 10am. Pike said he understood they called a friend to the scene for help, and the friends then called FENZ.

FENZ are now helping police search the entire building to confirm no one else is inside.

Dunn said a range of steps had been taken over the years to keep squatters from accessing the building, including removing scaffolding to prevent people from accessing upper levels.

“We’ve been through multiple times before and we were hoping that the message was getting across like ‘don’t come back here,’ [as] one, it’s unsafe and two, we’re shutting it, you know we’re isolating it.”

Police have worked with Prime Property on the issue previously, but Dunn said squatters have still managed to break in on multiple occasions by damaging structures put in place to keep people out. 

He said he is unsure what else can be done to prevent access, and called on Wellington City Council to come to the table with property managers to discuss the issue.

“We’ve done what we can to try and prevent this, and it’s all about preventing them.”

A man who works close to the scene but didn’t want to be named told 1News that squatters had been accessing the building for around five years. He said at one stage, a large group of people were living in the building. 

He has found needles believed to be used for taking drugs near the building and on one occasion the worker was bitten by a squatter’s dog. 

The worker has contacted Wellington City Council, the insurers who have taken control of the site, along with Prime Property managers and police on multiple occasions to report incidents.  

‘It is for the owner to decide the future of the building’

Wellington City Council chief planning officer Liam Hodgetts said it was the building owner’s responsibility to secure buildings and prevent unauthorised access.

“We are not aware of any ‘red tape’ stopping the owner from getting on and fixing this building and it is for the owner to decide the future of the building, not the city council,” he said.

“We had a pre-application (resource consent) meeting with the owner in mid-April to discuss options and we will continue to provide support if it chooses to proceed with the earthquake repairs and strengthening.”

With regards to a meeting with property owners, a council spokesperson said it did not think there was a need for one.

There was only a handful of condemned buildings and not many were presenting a problem with respects to squatters.