Quake concerns remain as building deadlines loom

6:34 pm on 9 October 2020

Concerns over the strength of dozens of Wairarapa buildings to stand up to earthquakes remain, more than two years on from the first warning signs going up.

Carterton High St

Carterton High St Photo: SUPPLIED/ Wairarapa Times-Age

Properties across the area, rated as a high-risk region, are awaiting action from councils and owners to secure them after 2017 law changes.

There are 13 central Masterton properties on the register, and 28 Carterton buildings have earthquake-prone notices up, with a deadline looming.

One Greytown shop, a selection of Featherston properties, and nine Martinborough buildings are also listed on the national register of earthquake-prone buildings [EPB Register].

Masterton District Council [MDC] itself maintains one of the properties on the register, Chapel St's Municipal Buildings. The bulk of Masterton's at-risk buildings are in the Queen St CBD area.

The first notices in Masterton went up in August 2018, and the council has until 2022 to identify all earthquake-prone buildings in the district. Priority buildings had to be notified by 1 January this year.

"The status of buildings is based on an assessment of engineering reports, commissioned by owners, and provided to the council by them," MDC strategic planning manager Angela Jane said.

"While the format of these reports may vary, and the reports in some cases date back some time, most owners are likely to be aware of the content.

Jane said the council was "continuing to work through the information we have on other buildings".

Masterton's Municipal Buildings

Masterton's Municipal Buildings Photo: CREATIVE COMMONS/ Ulrich Lange under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Jane said the methodology identified buildings that were potentially earthquake-prone.

It was then the owner's responsibility to provide an engineer's assessment to demonstrate the structural capacity of the building.

"We want the public to appreciate these buildings have not changed - they are still the same buildings they were 20 years ago, or even longer.

"What has changed is the legislation identifying buildings that may need some work to improve their structural performance in an earthquake, and how we notify the public."

Many of the Carterton properties are also in that town's CBD. Mayor Greg Lang, speaking last month, said a task force had been created to tackle a looming deadline over action to start on the High St buildings.

"We want to see the town centre prosper, and be a town centre for the future."

Lang said he had "taken the bull by the horns" ahead of a June 2021 deadline. By the middle of next year, work must be ongoing or planned to bring the buildings up to code.

"We've been taking the work forward as to how we see the town working, and flowing - the connections we want to see, and the principles we want in our town centre."

The taskforce will work with businesses, property owners, and developers to work on innovative ways to solve the problem, including sharing premises and changing layouts.

There is no building work as yet, but Lang said it would be "setting up for the future" with a vision of an eclectic, connected CBD, with a green heart, for local people.

"It's for our community. We want to attract other people, other visitors, that's fantastic. But principally, about us, for our community.

"We're not just building it for tourists, it's for the fantastic community we have here."

In South Wairarapa, rebuilding work is due to start on one of the more prominent buildings, Martinborough's Pain and Kershaw supermarket."

Visit epbr.building.govt.nz for the full national register of earthquake-prone buildings.

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