Councils aghast changes could cost billions

Michael Ross
Michael Ross
South Island councils are expected to offer a ''united front'' in opposing new Government building regulations that could cost councils billions of dollars to implement.

Last year the Waitaki District Council joined the Dunedin and Invercargill city councils and the Central Otago, Clutha, Gore, Mackenzie, Southland, Timaru and Waimate district councils to present a joint submission on a discussion paper detailing proposed changes to the way earthquake-prone buildings are managed.

The submission, issued ahead of the Earthquake-prone Buildings Amendment Bill, said under the proposed changes more than 7000 buildings south of Timaru would require upgrading, at a cost of $1.77 billion over a 15-year period.

Although the Bill has had its first reading in Parliament, Waitaki District Council chief executive Michael Ross said there were still ''concerns'' over what it would mean for local councils.

He added it was hoped the 10 councils would now work on presenting a formal joint submission on the new Bill.

Mr Ross said if the Bill became law it would require councils to conduct seismic assessments of privately-owned buildings at ratepayers' expense.

He said that was ''not the way to go'', because local authorities would in effect have to carry out work that should be done by the Government.

The 15-year time-scale proposed for buildings to be strengthened or demolished was also a concern.

''There are quite a number of things we think need to change to reflect the challenges of provincial New Zealand.''

A collective approach would ensure a stronger voice for all 10 councils, he said.

Following a meeting of the Otago Mayoral Forum on Friday, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said there was a ''general agreement'' between Otago councils on the need for a joint approach.

''The submission will likely focus on steering any legislation away from overly expensive and bureaucratic processes and towards pragmatic ones which have a reasonable balance between and obligations on councils and the actual building owners.

''The councils that are involved share common concerns and issues on that topic.

''It would be better to put something forward that shows a united front is a very important aspect, rather than a bunch of separate submissions; it will have a lot more power to it.''

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