Concerns have been raised the Dunedin City Council could face
a legal threat if it knows - but does not disclose -
information about earthquake-prone buildings in the city.
The fear was voiced by Cr Richard Thomson at yesterday's
planning and regulatory committee meeting, as councillors
considered whether to extend a deadline for seismic strength
assessments in the city.
The council, in 2012, gave owners of pre-1976 non-residential
buildings until July 1 this year to have their properties
assessed and report results to the council.
The council intended to publish a register of results online,
but so far just 14% of reports had been received, amounting
to just 412 of the 2900 buildings covered by the council
And, with continuing uncertainty over government plans for
earthquake-prone buildings, councillors were yesterday asked
to informally extend the deadline while delaying public
access to the register for now.
However, that worried Cr Thomson, who questioned whether the
council would be ''at some legal risk'' if, after a serious
earthquake, it was found to have withheld information it held
about earthquake-prone buildings in the city.
Instead, he suggested rewarding owners who had already
returned completed reports, by publishing their results
online, even if other owners were yet to comply with the
Council acting urban design team leader Dr Glen Hazelton said
he would need to seek advice on any potential legal threat
arising from a delay releasing received results.
There was a distinction to be drawn between earthquake-prone
and dangerous buildings, but withholding information ''would
probably not be the best look in the public eye'', he said.
It was also possible the council could publish completed
assessment results online in the meantime, but that would
include those whose buildings were deemed earthquake-prone as
well, he said.
The uncertainty prompted councillors to agree to leave the
debate for the next full council meeting, on June 23, giving
staff time for more research.
That was despite Cr Lee Vandervis questioning whether the
council should be spending money on a legal opinion when the
Government's approach to earthquake-prone buildings - which
was likely to trump the council's - was expected next year.
Mayor Dave Cull clarified the July 1 deadline was for
assessments, not improvements, ''so the risk doesn't change
in terms of the [earthquake] damage''.
Dr Hazelton agreed, saying the proposal to publish assessment
results was a council initiative not required by law.
Committee chairman Cr David Benson was among those to agree
to the move, saying more information was needed to address Cr
Thomson's ''perfectly valid'' question.