Councils make submission on quake legislation

Tax incentives to encourage building upgrades and the risk of criminal prosecution if buildings collapse are two issues raised over proposed legislation on earthquake-prone buildings.

They were in a joint submission presented by Waitaki District Council policy manager Fraser Liggett to Parliament's local government and environment select committee on behalf of 13 district and city councils in the South Island.

The submission was ''pretty well received'', Mr Liggett said after the presentation.

Questions were asked by committee members during the 15-minute timeslot, including the issue of incentives to encourage owners to upgrade buildings.

The councils praised some changes recommended by Parliament's local government and environment select committee on the Building (Earthquake-Prone Buildings) Amendment Act.

But they noted the legislation did not consider tax incentives or other ways to support strengthening earthquake-prone buildings.

While tax incentives were outside the scope of the new legislation, they should be considered by Revenue Minister Todd McClay, the submission said.

The councils also wanted more clarification over the potential risk that property owners and councils could be prosecuted under health and safety laws.

The submission reiterated the councils' stance that directors and owners of properties that met 34% or more of the national building standard should have indemnity from legal actions by people subsequently harmed.

Legislative changes on earthquake-prone buildings have been proposed after the Christchurch earthquakes.

Last year and in April this year, the councils made a joint submission and representations criticising the original Bill.

One of their concerns was the estimated cost to ratepayers and building owners of meeting the proposed provisions.

This time, they had more praise for changes recommended in the parliamentary committee's latest report. Those changes included more active approaches and timeframes for assessing and strengthening buildings, which would work equally well for rural and urban areas.

The joint submission supported. -

• Varying timeframes based on the seismic risk of an area for identifying and upgrading buildings.

• Reducing the scope of buildings covered by the legislation (such as farm buildings or bridges).

• Prioritising certain buildings in high seismic risk areas (such as hospitals, schools and emergency centres).

It cautiously supported linking seismic upgrades to major alterations of earthquake-prone buildings and approval of upgrades to escapes for disabled people.

The submission was on behalf of the Dunedin and Invercargill city councils and Waitaki, Buller, Central Otago, Clutha, Gore, Mackenzie, Queenstown Lakes, Southland, Timaru, Waimate and Westland district councils.

david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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