New quake rules could 'destroy' small towns

Bryan Cadogan.
Bryan Cadogan.
Now is the time to react and air concerns on the Government's proposals to improve the safety of earthquake-prone buildings Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan says.

Southern communities could potentially face a joint bill of $1.8 billion a study has found, and Mr Cadogan says the Government is not considering the effect the policy would have on small towns.

''I'm really scared that the effect could be detrimental in our wee communities. I'm really scared that in order to save out wee towns, we will need to destroy them.''

Townships like Lawrence, which had many historic buildings with low leases, would struggle under the proposed measures.

''If we don't take a pragmatic approach, it will be quite catastrophic.''

Mr Cadogan said an economic impact report commissioned by southern councils on the Government's proposal was not scaremongering. They were being proactive.

''The recent closure of our courthouse shows us that the public can not be apathetic on issues such as this. The pace of proposed change, the ability for the public to react, and the ramifications of allowing a one-size-fits-all legislation to be passed, has the potential for a irreparable long-term breakdown of all aspects of our community. Now is the time to react.''

Ten of the 11 district and city councils south of Timaru banded together to pay for the analysis.

The desktop analysis was done by Arrowtown consulting firm Rationale. It based estimates on QV data supplied by the councils using a formula developed by structural engineers. Low-use buildings, such as shearing sheds and hay barns, were included in the study, because the proposals did not allow for exclusions.

The report estimates strengthening costs of $153 million for Clutha and $3.1 million assessment costs for the council, but Mr Cadogan warned this was a ''conservative'' figure.

He said the report estimated 27 full-time engineers would be needed just to compile the earthquake data on all buildings in the southern South Island required under the Government's proposal.

With engineers in demand after the Christchurch earthquakes, assessment and strengthening costs could rise.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, who officially released the results on behalf of the group on Friday, said the analysis was indicative and based on the broadest understanding of the proposal, so was likely to be a worst-case scenario. It was necessary to ensure the Government had a clear understanding of the potential impacts on rural and provincial areas.

Earlier this month Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson said getting the policy right involved striking a balance between the risks and the costs of strengthening or demolition. Submissions on the policy close on March 8.

The Clutha District Council's submission to the earthquake strengthening proposal will be tabled at its meeting on Thursday.

helena.dereus@odt.co.nz