The University of Otago is concerned changes to
earthquake-strengthening rules could add unnecessary costs to
its already hefty $50 million seismic programme.
The university's submission on the Government's Building
(Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill broadly supported
proposed changes but expressed concern about a requirement
for all buildings built before March 31, 2005, to be
Minister for Building and Construction Nick Smith, who
recently took the role from the disgraced Maurice Williamson,
said he would have a ''fresh look'' at the issue, taking into
account submissions from the university and others.
''This is a complex area where we need to get the balance
right between the safety of buildings and the cost
impositions on organisations like the university,'' Dr Smith
The university's written submission, on behalf of property
services director Barry Mackay, questioned the merits of
moving away from a requirement for only pre-1976 buildings to
''The [university's] assessment of pre-1976 buildings and
residential college buildings is nearing completion, and the
university is understandably concerned that further financial
and staff resources may be required for the assessment of
buildings constructed before 2005,'' the submission said.
The university could find ''no research or commentary'' to
justify the change from using the introduction of stricter
building codes in 1976 as the cut-off point and noted its
inclusion came as a ''surprise'' as it was not signalled
during the Bill's formulation.
''The risk of modern building failure cannot be significant
enough for most parts of the country to justify a nationwide
assessment and strengthening regime that would encompass
nearly all non-residential building stock,'' the university
That the university took the ''health and safety of staff and
students seriously'', was shown by its extensive programme to
strengthen buildings to a minimum of 67% of new building
Dr Smith said it was a ''complex'' issue and people pushing
for all pre-2005 buildings to be included were influenced by
the fact the greatest loss of life in the Christchurch
earthquake occurred in the CTV building, which was built
after 1976. However, he would re-examine the Bill, the
''I am worried that the net of the Bill may have been thrown
too widely and as new minister coming in [I am] taking a
fresh look at whether we do need to include younger buildings
and also the provisions around farm buildings.''
The issue was discussed at this week's capital development
committee meeting at the university, where chief operating
officer John Patrick said the change could require its
seismic assessment programme to be extended.
It had completed tranches one to five of its assessment
programme, with only tranche six remaining.