7 Dec 2012

$1.7b price tag to quake-strengthen buildings

10:25 pm on 7 December 2012

The Government believes it could cost about $1.7 billion to bring as many as 25,000 earthquake-prone buildings throughout New Zealand up to standard within 15 years.

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission on Friday made 36 recommendations on quake-prone buildings, following 42 deaths caused by unreinforced masonry in the February 2011 quake.

The Royal Commission wants all non-residential buildings to be seismically graded with the findings available on a public register.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson said on Friday that staying with current policies would cost about $1 billion over 28 years.

The commission also recommends that the Building Act be overhauled to force councils to assess all unreinforced masonry buildings within two years and all other potentially quake-prone buildings within five years.

The 36 recommendations are linked to unreinforced masonry falling and killing 42 people during the Canterbury earthquake on 22 February 2011.

The Royal Commission wants chimneys, parapets and ornaments either secured or removed from all unreinforced masonry buildings. If owners fail to comply, they could be charged for demolition.

The Government says there are between 15,000 to 25,000 earthquake-prone buildings in New Zealand. In response to commission's report, it is taking public feedback on improving quake-prone building regulations.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Canterbury Recovery director, Dave Kelly, says deadlines would be set.

Building industry fears

The building industry warns it may not have enough man power to cope with increased demands from the building code.

Owners of quake-prone buildings will have to either pay for the strengthening work to bring them up to the new standards or have them demolished.

Warwick Quinn, chief executive of the Registered Master Builders Federation, says whatever owners decide, there will be an increased workload for the construction industry.

Mr Quinn says between the Canterbury rebuild and continual growth in Auckland, the construction industry will be stretched to cope because it has downsized over a five-year recession.