A government review has found that nearly half of local councils it audited are failing to follow best practice in checking buildings are safe to use.
Under the Building Act 2012, local and regional councils are required to enforce building warrants of fitness, to ensure systems like fire alarms, sprinklers, automatic doors and lifts are working as they should in case of fire or power outages.
The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment reviewed 13 councils, including Christchurch City Council, Dunedin City Council, Auckland Council and Kapiti Coast District Council.
MBIE team leader of the consent system Dave Gittings said the ministry found six of the 13 councils were not carrying out physical checks on-site to verify the warrants of fitness were being complied with.
"The legal requirement is for territorial authorities to enforce the building warrant of fitness scheme," Mr Gittings told Nine to Noon.
"Our interpretation and our idea of what enforcement would mean is to get on site and to check those who are doing the job, and to do a high level check."
Mr Gittings said the law did not require staff to go on site, but that would be best practice.
Recently retired Timaru firefighter Kevin Collins said he had come across many businesses that were not as fire safe as they were supposed to be and he believed the problem was nationwide.
"Considering that (in) Timaru district itself the council there has something like 900 buildings that are subject to the building warrant of fitness regime, I think if you multiply those problem out, there will be a significant problem throughout the rest of the country."
Mr Gittings said there would now be a review looking at what could be done to improve the building warrant of fitness system.