Quake inquiry told urgent changes needed to building rules

4:10 pm on 12 December 2011

The Royal Commission into the Canterbury earthquakes has been told urgent changes need to be made to the building rules to ensure there is not a repeat of the deaths in Christchurch.

The fifth stage of the commission began on Monday, focussing on several two-storey buildings which collapsed in the February earthquake, killing those inside as well as passers-by.

It heard most of those killed by the collapse of unreinforced masonry buildings were outside the buildings at the time of the quake.

The lawyer for the commission, Mark Zarifeh, told the hearing that 40 people died as a result of the collapse of unreinforced masonry buildings.

Thirty-six of those people were killed as a result of facades or walls from the buildings collapsing outward onto people outside or in neighbouring buildings.

Mr Zarifeh said that showed the problem was not just for the occupiers or owners of the unreinforced buildings, but for the whole community.

He said some councils had a passive earthquake-prone building policy, and changes to the building rules needed to be made and implemented urgently.

Same building - differing notices

The commission also heard one building, which partially collapsed killing two people, had two different safety assessment notices attached to it.

The building had two street frontages, on Colombo Street and St Asaph Street.

The St Asaph frontage was given a yellow placard after the 4 September earthquake, meaning it could not be reoccupied until repair work was carried out.

The Colombo frontage was, however, given a green placard, and able to be occupied.

Christchurch City Council environmental policy and approvals manager, Steve McCarthy, told the hearing the contractor who carried out the initial inspection may have thought it was two buildings.

Most killed by masonry buildings outside

Earlier on Monday, the Royal Commission

Structural engineers, property owners and tenants, and the city council are due to present evidence to the hearing, which is set down for four days.

It will be the last session of the Royal Commission for the year.