The Government should take a principles-based rather than
prescriptive approach to the issue of ensuring members of the
public are safe from earthquake-prone buildings, southern
The suggestion is part of a joint submission on the Building
Seismic Performance Consultation Document from 11 southern
councils and five southern industry and employer groups. The
submission was signed off by the Dunedin City Council this
In this alternative approach, the Crown would focus on
defining a set of principles along with outcomes it would
like to achieve, such as improved safety for pedestrians,
improved public awareness of the earthquake risk of
buildings, strengthening of high-occupancy buildings and/or
critical infrastructure, with associated specific time frames
for each, the submission said.
Each local authority, or group of local authorities
(organised geographically, by seismic risk zone, or by
population and socioeconomic indicators) would define how
best to meet these in the set time frame.
The Government proposes having a national policy that
requires potentially earthquake-prone buildings to be
assessed by local authorities within five years and requires
the owners of earthquake-prone buildings to have either
strengthened or demolished them within 15 years.
The joint submission suggests the Crown could work with local
authorities to develop a new system.
For example, it said, improved safety for pedestrians might
best be achieved in Wellington through the full strengthening
of buildings within a five-year time frame, while in Dunedin
and other smaller centres with lower seismicity, the
targeting of parapets and other such features in the
five-year period might be the most appropriate approach,
while there could be longer time frames for achieving full
''In this way, more targeted regional policies can be used to
ensure improvements in safety, in a manner that better
corresponds to seismicity and risk, while balancing concerns
The submission said regional clustering of policies would
assist the Crown in its desire to reduce the number of
approaches across New Zealand, achieve greater consistency
and provide flexibility, plus avoid a one-size-fits-all
approach that affected certain regions more negatively than
Consultation closes tomorrow.
After that, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and
Employment will analyse feedback and report to the
If adopted, the proposals would require legislative change,
at which stage there would be further opportunity for public
input through the select committee process later this year.
The Dunedin City Council signed off its own submission this
week. That expressed its concerns the proposals placed too
much emphasis on earthquake risk at the expense of other
risks. In some settlements the greatest risk to public safety
and the economy might be from sea-level rise or the loss of
important employers, it said. That emphasis in areas where
overall seismic risk was low would see the unnecessary
diversion of investment away from areas of greater need.
The proposed solutions could worsen other threats to
communities, particularly with regard to the loss of jobs and
essential services. Solutions needed to suit local
situations, the submission said.