A $10 billion national seismic building upgrade will save
only seven lives during almost a century yet destroy much of
the country's heritage, an economist says.
Ian Harrison of Wellington's Tailrisk Economics will tomorrow
release his 100-page report Error Prone Bureaucracy, telling
how the new earthquake strengthening policy could cost $3
billion in Auckland alone but take 4000 years to save a
Yet the new regime would negatively affect tens of thousands
of people and result in many older buildings throughout
cities' suburbs and towns being demolished, all for very
"The policy can be expected to save just seven lives over the
next 75 years.
Compliance with the minimum standard could cost over $3
billion in Auckland but is expected to take 4000 years to
save a single life. Three to eight Aucklanders are expected
to die as a result of financial stress caused by the policy.
"If $10 billion were spent improving health and road safety,
thousands of lives could be saved," Mr Harrison's paper says.
Around 15,000 to 25,000 New Zealand buildings are
earthquake-prone, according to the Ministry of Business,
Innovation and Employment.
Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson
defended the upgrade, saying the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal
Commission and a comprehensive Government review identified
problems with the current system, including significant
information gaps and lack of consistency of practice issues
so there was a need for change.
"The royal commission's findings and the Government's review
have shown that New Zealanders believe the current system for
managing earthquake-prone buildings is not achieving an
acceptable level of risk," Mr Williamson said.
"Half of all submitters agreed local authorities should be
required to assess the seismic capacity of all buildings in
their areas and this information should be entered into a
The Government's review included advice from international
A sector reference group made up of experts and practitioners
in engineering, construction, property ownership and
management, insurance, heritage and local government also
provided input in the lead-up to the release of a public
Mr Harrison said no other country was planning to introduce
across-the-board national earthquake strengthening standards.
"Generally, it does not make sense."
The Government should go back to the drawing board and
develop new policies based on evidence.
A 5.2 magnitude earthquake rattled southern Hawkes Bay
yesterday with reports of it being felt as far away as
- By Anne Gibson of the New Zealand Herald