Policy change for earthquake-prone buildings

The Building and Housing Minister, Nick Smith, has announced that the Government was reviewing its policy on managing earthquake risk by better targeting regulations on buildings where location, use and type posed the greatest risk to life.

The changes are in the Building ( Earthquake-prone Buildings ) Amendment Bill.

The frequency of earthquakes likely to cause fatalities varied significantly across the country.  So rather than requiring all buildings to be assessed in five years and upgraded within 15 years, the Minister has announced a more targeted approach.  New Zealand was to be categorised into three seismic zones of risk from high, to medium to low.

Earthquake-prone buildings in high risk areas like Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch would need to be assessed within five years and strengthened within 15 years.  Buildings in medium risk areas like Hamilton would need to be assessed within 10 years and strengthened within 25 years.  Buildings in low risk areas like Dunedin and Auckland would need to be assessed within 15 years and strengthened within 35 years.

Education and emergency buildings were to be prioritised for strengthening.  The number of buildings requiring assessment was to be reduced and new measures would be introduced to encourage earlier upgrades.

The Bill has been welcomed by most particularly commercial building owners in the medium to low risk areas.

The Bill is currently (August 2015) being considered by the Local Government and Environment Select Committee which will no doubt provide its report in due course.