Earthquake-prone buildings review brought forward

The earthquake-prone building review is being brought forward, with work to start immediately, along with an extension to the deadline for remediations by four years.

Minister for Building and Construction Chris Penk said the timeline was changed due to feedback, around affordability in particular.

“We’ve heard from around the country that the current rules are unworkable, you know look, they were set up in good faith following the Canterbury earthquake tragedies, and it’s just proven in the meantime that it’s unaffordable for many people to do remediation to that standard,” he said.

Cabinet would agree to the review’s terms of reference next month.

“The current earthquake-prone building system was put in place in 2017, requiring buildings considered to be earthquake-prone to be remediated before set dates with nearly 500 deadlines set to expire over the next four years,” Penk said.

Wellington has 53 earthquake-prone buildings, and 49 earthquake-prone apartment buildings.

The extension to deadlines would apply from April 2, 2024, but would not apply to buildings that had already passed their deadline.

In Wellington, there were 553 earthquake-prone buildings, and 49 earthquake-prone apartment buildings.

Geraldine Murphy from Inner-city Wellington Residents Association welcomed the news of the review being brought forward.

“We’ve been calling for that for a long time, it’s great, it needs to be done as soon as possible,” Murphy said.

The review would be extensive, according to the Government, and would also look at the way other countries managed earthquake risk.

“We’ve just got to maybe be a little bit creative as to how we encourage people or maybe incentivise them, and perhaps it’s about rule settings more so than direct government contribution or assistance,” Penk said.

The changes announced today would require an amendment to the Building Act 2004 with the intention that this bill would be passed before the end of this year.

Penk said he wanted to work closely with the owners and occupants of the earthquake-prone buildings.

“We want our buildings to be able to perform well under pressure, literally, but including in a natural disaster, we need hospitals, we need schools, we need civic defence centres to be available,” he said.

‘An extremely complex issue’

Mayor Tory Whanau also welcomed the news.

“This is an extremely complex issue. It’s important that New Zealand has a system for strengthening buildings that is fit for purpose.

“The closure of earthquake-prone buildings come with significant social and economic costs, resulting in an often unaffordable and unsustainable position for building owners,” she said.

“I am glad the minister has moved quickly to provide owners with this extension.

“We will also offer whatever assistance we can to help with the review.”

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