Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson
addresses a Dunedin audience last night on national
earthquake-prone building policy. Photo by Gregor
No decisions have been made on a new earthquake-prone
building policy system because the Government needs more
information from those who would be affected, a Dunedin
audience has been told.
The Government's proposals for changing the system are open
for public consultation and the fifth in a series of public
meetings across the country was held in Dunedin last night.
The proposed policy would require local authorities to carry
out seismic assessments on potentially earthquake-prone
buildings within five years of the regulations taking effect.
Owners of buildings deemed earthquake-prone would then have
10 years to strengthen or demolish them.
Under existing individual local body regulations, the process
would take 28 years, on average.
Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson told
the 50 people at last night's meeting the Government was
still trying to find the right balance between safety and
He emphasised several times no decisions had been made. The
Government wanted to understand the situation around the
country, and needed localised submissions to achieve that.
''I don't want to go flying off the lunatic end of the
spectrum,'' Mr Williamson said.
Audience members told the panel of central and local
government and property development specialists they had
concerns about the proposed policy, mainly concerning risk,
costs and timeframes.
Many, such as Dunedin property developer Tony Clear, and Phil
Hope, chairman of the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, which
owns 16 whitestone buildings, said they agreed with the
proposed requirement to strengthen to 33% of code, but were
concerned the timeframes were too short, making upgrades
unaffordable for many building owners.
With strengthening costs of about $400sq m, that might mean
rent increases of up to 25% for tenants, Mr Clear said,
adding that was untenable.
A spokeswoman from the University of Otago, which was
half-way through an expensive and expert-heavy, detailed
assessment of its potentially earthquake-prone buildings, was
concerned councils could not afford, nor had the expertise,
to undertake assessments.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Canterbury
recovery programme director David Kelly said if it went that
way, the details of how councils would pay for and go about
assessments would be something decided as the policy was
Others who attended were also concerned about how risk was
assessed, how engineering assessments were standardised, that
disability access remained a requirement in upgrades, and
what incentives could be given to building owners. Mr Kelly
encouraged people to make their submissions by March 8.