Council at odds with quake measures

''Inflexible, unworkable and unaffordable'' is how the Waitaki District Council is describing proposed Government changes to rules and regulations governing earthquake-prone buildings.

It has been estimated it will cost the council $2.5 million - 2% of total rates it collects - to assess at-risk buildings and the community or building owners $178 million to upgrade them.

Those details will be included in a submission the council will make on the Government's proposed changes to earthquake prone buildings, a draft of which was outlined to councillors earlier this week.

The submission makes it clear the changes, as proposed, will place a heavy level of compliance and cost on the council and community.

Overall, the council wants to see greater flexibility, rather than a ''one size fits all'' approach, with the community able to decide what level of risk is acceptable.

While agreeing improvements can be made in the light of what happened in the Christchurch earthquakes, the council has concerns with many of the proposals and timeframes, which may prove unaffordable for the Waitaki community.

It says too much emphasis is being placed on the earthquake risk, at a substantial cost, in comparison to other risks communities faced.

Ultimately, the solutions must be risk-based, workable and affordable for both New Zealand and local communities.

The council challenged the emphasis put on assessing and strengthening unreinforced masonry buildings, pointing out that in Christchurch the greatest loss of life was in other buildings.

A balanced approach was needed to heritage buildings and the risk to life, with local authorities having more flexibility in making decisions on what should be done.

The current proposals would also lead to loss of value of commercial buildings with a subsequent shift in rates to rural and residential ratepayers.

The council challenged the timeframes proposed; the 12 months period for property owners - particularly those with marginally economic buildings - to submit strengthening or demolition plans, being ''unachievable/unaffordable'', given the competition for advisers such as engineers.

''Most importantly, the 10-year period for building strengthening is also an unaffordable cost for our community,'' the council said.

While exemptions or extensions of time could be allowed, the criteria were complex and constraining, which meant it was difficult to see how any building could qualify.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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