Reports on quake risk slow to get to council

Glen Hazelton
Glen Hazelton
Some property owners in Dunedin are holding off supplying the city council with details on how their buildings would stand up to a significant earthquake.

More than 2000 building owners have not submitted information requested by the Dunedin City Council nearly two years ago.

The council wrote to the owners of pre-1976 buildings - other than single dwelling residences - in mid-2012, requiring them to have their buildings inspected for seismic capacity.

They were asked to supply an initial assessment, at their own cost, to the council by this July.

The building's status is to be entered into a register, added to land information memorandums (LIMs) and council files and ultimately made public.

As of this week, 2470 building owners were yet to supply the required information, council heritage policy planner Dr Glen Hazelton said.

It had received 305 responses since July 2012. Of those, 38 buildings were reported likely (according to the initial assessment) to be earthquake-prone and five were confirmed to be earthquake-prone.

Four of the latter, belonging to Speight's, had already been upgraded.

The council already had building strength information about several hundred of Dunedin's pre-1976 buildings, the owners of which were not sent letters.

The council had yet to send letters to some multiple-unit residences in the city's suburbs.

However, the information outstanding represented the bulk of the city's pre-1976 (non single-dwelling) buildings, Dr Hazelton said.

He was not surprised by the delays. While some building owners probably had concerns about the information being made public, he was aware of several owners with multiple buildings who expected to submit all their assessments soon.

He had also been informed by several engineers they were working through long waiting lists for assessments. As a result, he was intending to seek from councillors an extension on the deadline.

Anyone who did not submit the required information by deadline would have their building recorded as likely to be earthquake-prone and a deadline for upgrade applied. The exercise is a part of the council's updated policy on dangerous, insanitary and earthquake-prone buildings, under which an owner is given between 15 and 30 years - the less their strength, the shorter the time frame - to upgrade to at least 34% of the new building standard if a building's strength is found to be less than that.

The council previously had a passive policy, but adopted a more proactive approach in 2011 in anticipation of legislative changes to the national system for managing earthquake-prone buildings, following the Christchurch earthquakes.

Dr Hazelton said several other councils had elected to stay with a passive policy until new earthquake-prone buildings legislation, now working its way through Parliament, was passed.

The Earthquake Prone Buildings Bill proposes giving councils five years to make assessments on buildings in their areas, though it is unclear on who pays for assessments, and owners up to 20 years, including the assessment period, to make the building no longer earthquake-prone. It also proposes all buildings built before 2005 be assessed.

Dr Hazelton said out of fairness, details of which Dunedin buildings were earthquake-prone would not be released until information on all the buildings was in.


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