Gisborne's quake-prone buildings off register due to council staffing

4:36 pm on 28 January 2020

A lack of staff is the reason Gisborne District Council is yet to add the region's earthquake-prone buildings to a national register, established following the devastating 2011 Christchurch quake.

The council identified Gisborne's potentially earthquake-prone buildings in two tranches - in 2008 and 2012 - and gave building owners 10 years to ensure their properties were safe.

But in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes royal commission of inquiry, a national framework for managing earthquake-prone buildings was established.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016, which came into force on 1 July 2017, made it a requirement for councils to add potentially earthquake-prone buildings to a publicly accessible national register once those buildings were identified.

The delay in listing Gisborne's potentially quake-prone buildings on the national register was due to a staff shortage in the building services team, Ian Petty, the council's building services manager said.

The register is managed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The council had informed the ministry of its resourcing issue and, with job vacancies now filled, the buildings would be added to the register by March, Petty said.

MBIE building system assurance manager Simon Thomas said legislation required councils to list buildings on the register within a reasonable time period.

"A reasonable period" was not specified but took into account the time required by councils for administration and to notify owners their buildings had been identified as potentially earthquake-prone, Thomas said.

The old National Bank building at 31-35 Gladstone Road, a category 2 historic place, is one of 42 potentially earthquake-prone buildings in the Gisborne district. It was due to be strengthened by March 2018.

The old National Bank building at 31-35 Gladstone Road, a category 2 historic place, is one of 42 potentially earthquake-prone buildings in the Gisborne district. It was due to be strengthened by March 2018. Photo: LDR / Aaron van Delden

All but five of Gisborne's potentially quake-prone buildings are in the CBD.

Notices had been placed "in a prominent place" on potentially quake-prone buildings in the city, Petty said.

The council was focused on retaining buildings in the CBD but ensuring they were strengthened to at least 34 percent of the New Building Standard (NBS) as required by law.

To that end, the council was working with owners of 13 buildings that were due to be strengthened by March 2018 and had granted them extensions to complete that work, Petty said.

The maximum allowable extension was five years to bring the council's time frame of 10 years in line with the national framework, which permits owners up to 15 years to carry out strengthening work on buildings in high seismic risk areas, including Gisborne.

The other 29 buildings on the council's "potentially quake-prone" list are due for strengthening in 2022/23.

There were 54 buildings on the list in March last year.

Some of the 42 buildings still on the list may not be earthquake-prone, Petty said.

Although identified as potentially quake-prone, those buildings may be shown to be above the NBS threshold through seismic assessments by engineers.

There were mixed views from people on Gisborne's main street, Gladstone Road, about the risks posed by quake-prone buildings.

Local resident Judy Taylor said she was more concerned about the number of empty shops in the city, which were not a good look.

Taylor believed a lot of work had already gone into strengthening buildings in the CBD.

Gus Waterman from Napier, who was on holiday in Gisborne, was aware of the risks posed by quake-prone buildings as a tour guide in Hawke's Bay, where an earthquake in 1931 killed 256 people.

Despite this, Waterman had never heard of someone avoiding built-up areas because of the risk posed by potentially quake-prone buildings.

Carlos Navarrete, who lives in Wellington, said he was aware of the risks in the capital, which sits on a fault line, but he thought there needed to be more signage indicating which buildings had been strengthened.

Councils in high seismic risk areas had until 1 January to identify "priority" quake-prone buildings - those that present the highest risk in an earthquake because of their construction, type, use or location.

Other potentially quake-prone buildings in high risk areas need to be identified by 1 July, 2022.

Petty said people could find out if a building in Gisborne was potentially earthquake-prone by checking for a notice on the front of the building or ringing the council.

App launched to warn of quake-prone buildings

Meanwhile, emergency planning company Survive-It has launched a free app that notifies users if they are near a potentially earthquake-prone building.

The EQ Prone app uses the information on the ministry's quake-prone building register, but the app is not sanctioned by the ministry.

Survive-It managing director Steven McLauchlan said there were "huge" gaps in the official data.

"We know other councils have lists of earthquake-prone buildings but haven't registered them," McLauchlan said.

"Councils are clearly not keeping their citizens informed on this."

Potentially quake-prone buildings

Originally due for strengthening in 2018

31-35 Gladstone Road

59-61 Gladstone Road

68 Gladstone Road

73 Gladstone Road

113 Gladstone Road

117 Gladstone Road

119 Gladstone Road

182 Gladstone Road

217 Gladstone Road

293 Gladstone Road

186 Grey Street

51 Lowe Street

4746 Waiapu Road, Te Puia Springs (Gisborne District Council service centre, front only)

Due for strengthening in 2022/23

35-37 Bright Street

22 Childers Road (and 56 Customhouse Street, corner)

40 Childers Road

83-85 Childers Road

58-62 Customhouse Street

30 Derby Street

58-60 Gladstone Road

79 Gladstone Road

96 Gladstone Road (and 55-61 Peel Street, corner)

105 Gladstone Road

110-112 Gladstone Road

126 Gladstone Road

200 Gladstone Road

204 Gladstone Road

259 Gladstone Road

75 Grey Street

67-71 Lowe Street

67 Main Road, Makaraka

109 Main Road, Makaraka

50 Main Road, Te Karaka

403 Ormond Road (Memorial Home, Gisborne Hospital)

294 Palmerston Road

50 Peel Street (public toilets)

63 Peel Street

64-66 Peel Street

73 Peel Street (and the Poverty Bay Electric Power Board transformer room behind 73 Peel Street)

100-106 Peel Street (old police station)

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