Two-year deadline for quake buildings

Kate Wilson.
Kate Wilson.
Owners of Dunedin buildings have two years from next July to complete earthquake assessments, and work at a significant cost is expected to be uncovered.

But Dunedin City Council planning and environment committee chairwoman Cr Kate Wilson said the council may consider the situation again once those assessments have taken place.

An updated Dunedin policy setting out the city's response to earthquake fears for its ageing buildings is one step away from being adopted, following an early review prompted by the Christchurch earthquakes.

The updated policy on dangerous, insanitary and earthquake-prone buildings was yesterday recommended for adoption by the committee.

A final rubber stamp is due at a full council meeting on October 31.

The policy was first adopted in 2007, and the council decided to undertake a review early, following the first major earthquake in Christchurch last September.

That event demonstrated problems with unreinforced brick and masonry buildings during earthquakes, buildings a report to the committee said "take up a significant amount of Dunedin's building stock".

A review of the policy showed it did not integrate with other council policies, raised questions about time frames and risk classification, and noted its passive nature meant little strengthening work had been undertaken in Dunedin.

The new policy, which attracted 23 submissions during consultation earlier this year, would continue to accept a minimum level of strengthening of 34% of current design codes.

A two-year time period for providing assessments of structural performance, beginning in July next year, was introduced, and a clearer process of how the policy was implemented, and who was responsible for each step, outlined.

Cr Wilson said the council believed under the Building Act it could go no higher than the 34% figure.

She was aware the policy would place a "huge burden" on owners of churches and other heritage buildings.

But the assessments may show, for instance, 80% of city buildings had less than 34% strength, and that the cost may be high.

"There's an ongoing dialogue to be had," Cr Wilson said.

Council heritage policy planner Glen Hazelton told the committee staff had considered whether it was a good idea to continue with the work, or wait for the Government to bring in changes it was considering.

Their advice was the government changes would take time to implement.

While the result of national discussions may be the requirement for 67% strengthening, the council was already signalling that was possible.

Cr Richard Thomson raised concerns about the terminology of "earthquake-prone" buildings, which he said may be misunderstood.

He was told definitions in the policy would be clearly set out.

A recommendation to adopt the policy was carried unanimously.



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