20 year deadline for building assessments

The Government has set a deadline of 20 years for assessing 193,000 buildings for earthquake risk and strengthening them.

Housing and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson said all commercial buildings and high-rise, multi-unit apartments in New Zealand would have to be assessed for earthquake risk within five years.

Any building found to be at risk of collapse will have to be strengthened or demolished within another 15 years under the proposed policy, which forms the Government's response to a Royal Commission investigation into earthquake-prone buildings after the Canterbury quakes.

The Government had initially proposed that these buildings had to be strengthened within 10 years, but Mr Williamson said the cost to property owners would have been too great.

Category 1 heritage building will get extensions of 10 years on this national timeframe.

The strengthening requirements would remain the same - owners would have to upgrade to 34 per cent of the new building standard.

Unreinforced masonry buildings resulted in the death of 39 people in the February 22, 2011 earthquake in Christchurch.

The commission found there was poor information on earthquake-prone buildings in New Zealand, lack of central guidance on defining and repairing these structures, and variable council approaches to fixing the problem.

Only 23 of 66 local authorities were able to tell the commission how many earthquake-prone buildings were in their area.

There was an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 buildings which were at risk of collapse in a moderate-sized tremor.

Mr Williamson emphasised that property owners who upgraded their buildings would benefit from a higher property value, higher rent, and lower insurance premiums.

- By Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald

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