Submission noticed in North

A joint stand by 13 South Island local authorities opposing aspects of earthquake-prone buildings legislation being introduced by the Government is making waves in the North Island, including at Cabinet level.

The councils, which include all south of the Waitaki River, have prepared a joint submission to the local government and environment selection committee which is considering the Government's Building (Earthquake-prone buildings) Amendment Act.

Along with an individual submission by the Waitaki District Council because of the effect on the large number of heritage buildings in Oamaru, they take a strong stand against some aspects of the Bill, particularly the burden and cost it will place on them and ratepayers.

They also want provisions for communities to have more discretion over making their own decisions based on the risk.

The joint submission has now attracted the attention of the ''super city'' Auckland Council, which has noted it in its submission.

Auckland believes it is ''absolutely necessary'' the final outcome of any changes is a system that functions well, not only for the likes of large cities, but also for smaller rural centres, ''such as those included in the joint southern councils' submission''.

It goes on to emphasise changes will affect all of New Zealand and identifies common issues between Auckland and the joint southern councils.

The approach also attracted the attention of the Government, with the now-sacked Minister of Building and Construction calling a meeting in his Wellington office for May 12 which would include Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, other mayors and Local Government Association representatives.

However, Mr Kircher was waiting to hear whether the meeting would still go ahead after Mr Williamson's resignation from Cabinet. His duties had been taken over by Nick Smith.

Research as part of the submissions indicated assessing pre-2005 buildings' earthquake risk would cost councils millions of dollars, and estimated more than 7000 buildings south of Timaru would require upgrading, at a cost of $1.77 billion over a 15-year period.

The joint submission supports improvements to the current earthquake-prone building system, but those being proposed may not represent the optimal solution, particularly for provincial and rural areas.

It wants a more risk-based response to assessing buildings and does not support mandatory assessment of all buildings built before December 31, 2005.

It supported exempting rural buildings, did not support the demolition of an earthquake-prone building at the conclusions of the 15-year upgrading time-frame and wanted strengthening of parts of buildings instead of the whole in areas of low seismic risk..

The councils wanted to have discretion whether they did assessments or required the property owners to do them, instead of councils being solely responsible.

Tax incentives or other financial considerations to encourage and support strengthening work were suggested.

The councils supporting the joint submission are Dunedin, Waitaki, Central Otago, Clutha, Gore, Invercargill, Mackenzie, Queenstown Lakes, Southland, Timaru, Waimate, Westland and Buller.

It also has the support of the Otago Chamber of Commerce, Otago Southland Employers' Association, Otago, North Otago and South Canterbury Federated Farmers.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz

 

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