Earthquake proofing a 'huge issue'

Jacqui Dean
Jacqui Dean
Mayors and council chief executives south of Timaru have received a report that signals the potential multimillion-dollar cost to ratepayers of the proposed national earthquake-prone building policy.

A desktop exercise has been carried out on the building stock in the lower South Island to work out how much it could cost councils to assess the earthquake-prone buildings in their territories, and what it would then cost property owners to bring those buildings up to code.

The report has been prepared by infrastructure consultancy Rationale, which was commissioned by the local authorities in the lower South Island, except the Queenstown Lakes-District Council, to look at the economic impact of the new policy.

The Central Otago District Council revealed earlier this month that each council gave information about their building stock to Rationale, which worked out which buildings would need assessment and - at that preliminary stage - used a base figure of $400 a square metre to strengthen the buildings.

The proposed national policy is that local authorities would have up to five years after the changes took effect to carry out seismic capacity assessments on all non-residential and multi-unit, multi-storeyed residential buildings in their areas.

Owners would then have 10 years to strengthen or demolish earthquake-prone buildings.

Submissions on the proposal are open until March 8.

When contacted yesterday, mayors and chief executives would not comment on what was in the report, pending a public release on Friday.

However, Central Otago District Council chief executive Phil Melhopt told the Vincent Community Board earlier this month that, at that stage, Rationale estimated it would cost the council $2 million to assess its 1600 earthquake-prone buildings and building owners $52 million to bring them up to the required standard.

He described it as ''a huge issue'', and board members said they were concerned about the effect on businesses.

Clutha District Council chief executive Charles Hakkaart last week told that council's regulatory services committee, he had seen the figures and ''some of the numbers are frightening''.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said his council's figures were worse than Central's and it was a ''massive'' issue.

Following the Vincent Community Board meeting, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean issued a statement saying concerns about the cost of making buildings quake-safe were premature.

''The $50 million repair bill that's being bandied around is a little mischievous and, without proper structural engineer assessments, can't be considered accurate.''

Further, the Government was still in the process of consulting over its new national policy, with public meetings being held across New Zealand this month, she said.

She said getting the policy right meant striking a balance between the risks posed by buildings in earthquakes and the costs of strengthening or demolishing them.

- debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

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