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Owners of earthquake-prone buildings have been given an additional four years to complete their strengthening

Owners of earthquake-prone buildings have been given an additional four years to complete their strengthening


Minister of Building and Construction Chris Pink. Picture: RNZ/Samuel Rylston

The government is giving owners of earthquake-prone buildings more time to complete strengthening works and submit a review of regulations.

Current rules implemented in 2017 require buildings to be remedied ahead of schedule.

Buildings and Construction Minister Chris Pink says owners will now have an additional four years to repair their buildings while the review takes place.

Pink said he encouraged landlords to use the expansion “to continue making improvements to their buildings, particularly because of the positive impacts the remediation has on insurance and their ability to get tenants.”

Nearly 500 deadlines are scheduled to expire over the next four years, he said.

“Councils and building owners have told me that many buildings will not meet their deadlines because of the high costs involved, which are further complicated by onerous heritage rules and ownership structures.

“Without change, a large number of buildings could remain empty, which would have a devastating impact on the economy in cities like Wellington and regional towns across New Zealand,” he said.

A review of building code requirements was scheduled for 2027, and will be introduced now – to start immediately.

“The review will be wide-ranging and will consider appropriate risk settings to protect safety while ensuring that the rules are applicable to support businesses, increase economic activity and create jobs. The review will also look at the way offshore jurisdictions manage seismic risks.”

Right now, the strengthening work has not been done, Pink told the Morning Report.

“So, it doesn’t matter whether the government had good faith rules implemented nearly a decade ago to say you have to reinforce or demolish the building, it’s not going to happen.”

He said the local government could still declare a building unsafe or unsanitary.

The Cabinet is scheduled to approve the terms of reference in May.

Wellington Mayor Tory Wahanno welcomed the announcement. Picture: RNZ/Samuel Rylston

Wellington Mayor Tori Wahanno said she was pleased the minister moved quickly to announce the extension and met with Pink to share the “astronomical costs” faced by residents, council and business owners to reinforce the buildings.

She said there were 300 buildings in Wellington that needed to be strengthened by 2027, and about 300 by the early 2030s.

“Without change, there is a real risk that the council will be required to close some buildings which will have a crippling impact on the owners and the city as a whole.”

She said it was a very complex issue.

“Closing earthquake-prone buildings comes with significant social and economic costs, often resulting in an unsustainable and unsustainable situation for building owners.”

“With time we can deal with it.”

Michael Ford – a commercial real estate agent by day – works with New Zealand's local government and other council leaders to find solutions.

Ford in Fielding said it was necessary to demolish seven buildings in less than four years.

“And we will have a city center that has been destroyed by legislation and politics rather than an actual earthquake.”

In low-rent communities, and in high- and moderate-risk areas, economic viability often did not stack up, he said.

“Most buildings in our city don't add any value to the land, yet we're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars to enhance them, and there's not necessarily money for redevelopment.

“These things just take time and over time we can manage them.”

Asked about things that could be done to offset the risks in the meantime, Ford said suggestions include reinforcing or building a veranda so that in the event of a catastrophic earthquake, the facade of the building would fall onto it, protecting people on the crosswalk.

Safe zones have also been suggested, which could be a steel cage inside the building.

“What we don’t want is a whole lot of vacant buildings, or abandoned buildings.”

Wellington Inner City Earthquake Center spokeswoman Geraldine Murphy said they had been calling for a review for five years.

“Extending deadlines doesn't actually address the underlying issues, and in fact, it upsets a lot of owners…”

New Zealand does things differently than many other places around the world, and standards need to be more realistic, Murphy said.

“They don't have that one size fits all.”

She said the burden on the apartment was enormous, and the cost did not justify the number of lives that could be saved.




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