To affect quake proposal

Michael Ross
Michael Ross
Building strengthening recommendations put forward by the Royal Commission report into the Canterbury earthquakes have been cautiously welcomed by the Waitaki District Council.

The final volumes of the report, which made over 100 recommendations on earthquake-prone buildings, were released last Friday, and Waitaki District Council chief executive Michael Ross said the council would now work closely with other Otago councils to assess the ''scale and impact'' of the recommendations on the region's buildings.

''Over the next few months we will continue to work with the public and private sectors to develop a better understanding of the scale and the potential impact of the issue for Waitaki and Otago.

''Ultimately, the key issue is ensuring any changes in legislation and rules work equally well for provincial New Zealand as for the larger metropolitan centres such as Wellington and Auckland.

''Our approach has been to provide as much certainty to building owners as possible during a period of relative uncertainty. This has included the decision by council to align the timing of its Dangerous, Insanitary and Earthquake Prone Buildings Policy (2006) with the work of the Royal Commission, the public seminar hosted with ANZ-National Bank earlier in the year and more recently, collaboration with other councils in Otago on how best to respond and advocate on any possible changes in legislation.''

One of the report's recommendations was that owners of unreinforced masonry buildings be given just two years to have them assessed by engineers and seven years to bring them up to standard.

It also recommended that local councils should be able to adopt earthquake-strengthening standards above the existing national minimum standard, where it was supported by their communities.

However, Mr Ross said it was important to ensure any resulting changes in legislation were workable in rural towns such as Oamaru, which contained a large proportion of heritage buildings.

There was also a case to be put that buildings built using Oamaru stone not be classified as unreinforced masonry buildings, he said.

''The issue is that historically a lot of our buildings have been built from unreinforced masonry, i.e. Oamaru stone. However, the construction of those buildings is quite different to unreinforced masonry elsewhere, in that Oamaru stone is actually both the exterior and structural strength of the building.''

He said the council would discuss making a submission on the recommendations in the new year, but the present recommendations would prove ''very challenging'' for all of rural provincial New Zealand.

The issue had the potential to be ''10 times'' a bigger problem than leaky home syndrome, he said.

andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz