Quake proposal open for debate

Dunedin's new earthquake policy got the go-ahead from the Dunedin City Council yesterday; now it is the turn of the public, and the building owners who may have to pay to strengthen the city's building stock, to have their say.

At a full council meeting yesterday, councillors declined to increase the level of strengthening required from 34% to 67% of new building standards, with the latter figure agreed to be outside the ability of most owners to pay.

Consultation is expected to begin next month, with hearings in August and the new policy in place by November.

The council's dangerous, insanitary and earthquake-prone buildings policy was introduced in 2007, with a review planned for 2012, but a decision was made to complete the review early after last year's Christchurch earthquake.

The draft policy, released last week, would result in the setting up of a database of earthquake-prone buildings, and owners given two years to provide evidence their building was not earthquake-prone.

An assessment procedure would follow, and if an owner did not meet requirements imposed, the council could exercise its powers under the Building Act.

The policy included a proposal for incentive funding of $200,000 a year from 2012-13, with a phased increase to $400,000 after 2015-16.

A report to yesterday's meeting from heritage policy planner Glen Hazelton and chief building control officer Neil McLeod recommended the level of strengthening remain at 34%, but that the council encourage owners to strengthen to 67%.

"This approach recognises the fact that although 67% is a desirable level, the costs of meeting this level of strengthening for many building owners will be prohibitive," the report said.

For heritage buildings, it could have "a highly detrimental impact" on their character.

At yesterday's meeting, Cr Fliss Butcher called for "option two" in the report, which included the requirement to strengthen to 67%, to be approved.

While she later agreed to the 34% option, she said she was "of a mind to say it's not enough".

There were too many buildings in the city that would fall down and kill people in an earthquake, she said.

The city, though, did not have the "zillions of dollars" needed.

Cr Jinty MacTavish said while 34% may not be as strong as some may want, "we live in an imperfect world".

Deputy mayor Chris Staynes said even Christchurch had not gone with the 67% figure.

He said earthquakes were an emotional issue, but the policy was "a good, steady way ahead".

Cr Staynes noted the policy would target the strengthening of parapets, roof-level structures and verandas on historic buildings along key pedestrian areas of George and Princes Sts, and apart from the buildings that failed in Christchurch, it was falling masonry that had caused fatalities.

The council also voted for a recommendation from Cr Kate Wilson that herself, as planning and environment committee chairwoman, Cr Lee Vandervis, as heritage buildings economic reuse steering committee chairman, and an appointee with an engineering background make up the hearings committee for consultation.

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