The number of assessments outstanding, a shortage of
structural engineers and continued uncertainty about the
Government's plans for earthquake-prone buildings has led the
Dunedin City Council to consider extending its deadline for
In 2012 the council required, under its new earthquake-prone
buildings policy, all owners of pre-1976 non-residential
Dunedin buildings to have their properties assessed for
seismic strength and report the results to the council by
July 1 this year.
The intention was to make the buildings' status available on
a register on the council's website.
But with the deadline looming, the council has received
assessments for only 412, or 14%, of the 2900 buildings in
Acting urban design team leader Dr Glen Hazelton said there
were several reasons for that, including the large number
that needed assessing and a shortage of engineers to do the
work and long waiting lists for them.
The continuing uncertainty over whether the Government would
make councils responsible for doing the assessments, was also
leading many building owners to delay them.
Given those factors and issues that had arisen since, such as
the effect the information might have on insurance, building
values and ability to borrow, it would be ''overly punitive''
to label buildings as ''possibly earthquake-prone'', as was
to be the case under the council's policy if owners had not
filed assessments by July 1, he said.
There were also other concerns.
''Strong media interest and the tendency to oversimplify and
scaremonger the risks, means the recategorisation could have
negative, unwarranted impacts on the perception of public
safety in the city and encourage or legitimise the demolition
of buildings that are either not earthquake-prone, or those
that could feasibly be strengthened.''
The options were to carry on as the policy stood, formally
consult on extending the timeframe, which could lead to a
policy review, or informally extend the timeframe.
The latter would give people more time to do the assessments
without the associated risks related to insurance etc, and
recognised the potential for Government changes to be made in
the next short while, which would likely require a policy
review at that time anyway.
However, it would would be non-implementation of a policy,
which was not good practice.
With regards to the register, councillors could put a
searchable register online by July 1 or delay website access
until a national register was developed (the information can
be accessed in LIMs or by request).
None of the options was ''really ideal'', Dr Hazelton said.
However, the particular difficulties created by the present
situation made an informal extension likely the most
pragmatic approach for the time being.
It would mean the policy could continue to be implemented
without requiring more resources, when it was likely to
require review in the coming year to 18 months anyway.
He also recommended website access to the register be delayed
or the building status remain ''awaiting confirmation of
status'', which was less risky. Councillors will consider the