The Government's proposals to deal with earthquake-prone
buildings place too much emphasis on the earthquake risk, at
substantial cost, in comparison to other risks (both natural
and other) that individuals and local communities face, the
Dunedin City Council says.
The comment is one of many concerns the council has expressed
in its draft submission on the Building Seismic Performance
Consultation Document, which is to be considered by the
council's planning and environment committee tomorrow.
The committee will also consider a draft joint submission
from 12 southern councils concerned about the effects of the
proposals in the South.
The consultation document contains proposals to improve the
earthquake-prone building system, in response to the
recommendations of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal
The proposals include substantial changes to local systems
that could cost $1.8 billion in the southern South Island,
according to an assessment commissioned by local councils.
They include a much greater role for local authorities in
assessing buildings and much shorter time frames for either
upgrading or demolishing earthquake-prone buildings.
Opposition leaders are critical of the plan, saying there is
not enough information to put forward a realistic strategy.
But the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment,
which wrote the document, points the finger at councils,
citing ''poor information on the number and specific location
of earthquake-prone buildings across the country, due to
inadequate data collection''.
The ministry also points to failings by central government,
for providing limited information and guidance to local
authorities on stronger buildings.
The plan has also met with outrage from some civic leaders
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, Otorohanga Mayor Dale Williams and
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule, who is also president of Local
Government NZ, have spoken out against the proposals, saying
provincial towns and rural communities would be financially
Timaru Mayor Janie Annear has described the proposals as
But Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson
said the CERC report showed the Government had to take the
The minister said assessments would initially be a desk-top
exercise, examining materials, design and structure, and then
if an owner objected, a more detailed analysis by an engineer
would be needed.
The devastation in Christchurch showed there had to be a
system that struck an acceptable balance between protecting
people from serious harm, and managing the cost of doing
that, he said.
In Dunedin, as the proposals stand, estimated costs could
involve more than $5.6 million to the city council directly
and $555 million to local building owners (including the
The council's submission takes the view that the proposals
will have a significant and disproportionate negative impact
in the southern part of the South Island, where the building
stock is older, growth lower, and seismic risk lower.
Some of the comments in its submission included that it did
not believe it was appropriate for local authorities to carry
out building assessments, because of the expertise, cost and
It also urged caution over publicly accessible central
registers for seismic capacities of buildings and ideas like
app-based registers for smartphones, because of the potential
for badly managed data to create unnecessary fear in the
Chimneys and parapets did not all need to be strengthened,
but where they did, the council supported that happening more
The time frames proposed were ''far too restrictive'' and
would result in premature demolitions, as well as
''significant economic, social, and cultural effects on the
It was keen, though, to explore greater powers for councils
to ensure owners did not allow buildings to fall into such a
state of repair they became dangerous, insanitary or
It also supported proposals to grant consents for earthquake
strengthening without triggering requirements to upgrade
buildings' fire escape and disabled access.
Noting the biggest barriers to strengthening heritage
buildings were financial, it supported calls from heritage
building owners for national-level incentives, such as tax
incentives and changes to depreciation rules, to assist them
to undertake strengthening work.
Southern councils are finalising their submissions before the
consultation period closes on Friday. Mr Williamson said the
Government would release its decision around the middle of
Additional reporting by Anne Gibson, of The NZ