Every building in New Zealand except single-storey homes will
be assessed for earthquake risk and the results made public
under Government proposals released this morning.
Any buildings found to be at risk of collapse will have to be
strengthened or demolished within 15 years under the proposed
changes, which form the Government's response to a Royal
Commission investigation into earthquake-prone buildings
after the Canterbury quakes.
The Government planned to adopt many of the commission's
recommendations, but has chosen longer timeframes and lower
minimum standards of building strengthening than the report
Unreinforced masonry buildings resulted in the death of 39
people in the 22 February, 2011 earthquake in Christchurch.
The commission found there was poor information on
earthquake-prone buildings in New Zealand, lack of central
guidance on defining and repairing these structures, and
variable council approaches to fixing the problem.
Only 23 of 66 local authorities were able to tell the
commission how many earthquake-prone buildings were in their
Under the Government proposals, around 193,000
non-residential or multi-unit, multi-storey residential
buildings will have to be assessed for earthquake risk within
five years. There was an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 buildings
which were at risk of collapse in a moderate-sized tremor.
Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson said
the recommendations in the report could have significant
economic consequences for the building owners.
But he stressed that the Government's proposals, which were
released in a consultation paper, would strike a balance
between increasing safety and managing the economic pressures
of strengthening and removing vulnerable buildings.
He also emphasised that property owners who upgraded their
buildings would benefit from a higher property value, higher
rent, and lower insurance premiums.
The Government's proposals were broadly in line with the
Royal Commissions's recommendations, but did not go as far as
the commission in some areas.
Mr Williamson said making the timeframes too short or ramping
up the minimum earthquake-proofing standards would lead to
"catastrophic" increases in costs to property owners.
The Government's consultation document emphasised that the
risk of life-threatening earthquakes remained very low in New
Zealand and that there was no such thing as a completely
The commission recommended that earthquake-prone buildings
should be strengthened to 50 per cent of the building code -
up from the current threshold of 33 per cent.
Government proposed leaving it at 33 per cent. Mr Williamson
said increasing the threshold to just 34 per cent would cost
$700 million more over 15 years.
The commission wanted councils to be able to demand
strengthening of vulnerable residential buildings, but Mr
Williamson said this was not necessary because so few people
were harmed in their homes in the Christchurch quakes.
The Royal Commission also wanted faster timeframes for
identifying and repairing unreinforced masonry buildings.
The report was the fourth volume of seven to be released by
the commission on the quakes. The next volume, which focussed
on the collapse of the CTV building, will be released on
- Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald