Dunedin city councillors fear a tough new approach to New
Zealand's earthquake-prone buildings risks derailing progress
upgrading Dunedin's heritage buildings.
The concern was raised at yesterday's planning and regulatory
committee meeting, as councillors signed off on the council's
submission on the Government's Building (Earthquake-prone
Buildings) Amendment Bill 2013.
The Bill would give councils five years to assess nearly
200,000 buildings, including all non-residential and
high-rise, multi-unit apartment buildings, for earthquake
Owners of earthquake-prone buildings would then get another
15 years to upgrade to at least 34% of building code
requirements, at an expected cost of about $1.7 billion.
The council's submission supported the Bill's intent, but
argued against many of the changes, which council heritage
policy planner Dr Glen Hazelton warned could cost the council
$5.6 million in assessment costs.
Cr Kate Wilson told yesterday's meeting she was also nervous
the changes ''may well'' impede progress in upgrading the
city's heritage buildings under existing council policies.
She wanted that progress underscored in the council's
submission, and found support from Cr Jinty MacTavish, who
said the city's heritage buildings were an important part of
the city's economic development strategy.
Any loss of momentum would come at a cost to the city, which
should be stressed to the Government, she said.
''If we lose the momentum, for whatever reason, then that's a
real opportunity cost,'' she said.
The council already had an earthquake-prone building policy,
introduced in 2011, which gave building owners until July 1
next year to provide the council with initial assessments at
their own cost.
However, the council's submission warned some building owners
were already scrapping plans to pay for their own
assessments, in anticipation of a change in Government
Cr Lee Vandervis told the meeting the Government's
''knee-jerk reaction'' against heritage buildings also
ignored the fact the majority of fatalities from the
Canterbury earthquakes occurred when more modern buildings
''I believe the whole Government reaction to the terrible
events in the Christchurch earthquake has been to minimise
some council and government responsibility for very bad
buildings built not that long ago, and to push it on to
heritage buildings,'' he said.
Committee chairman Cr David Benson-Pope said the submission
would be fortified to underscore that.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the entire lower South Island
was overrepresented when it came to older buildings and the
likely economic impact of the proposed changes, but Dunedin
was ''the extreme example of that''.
Dr Hazelton said the council wanted a regional approach to
new rules, as well as the ability to prioritise some areas,
such as George St, and types of improvements, such as
parapets, over others, he said.