Wellington council looks at incentives for quake-prone building owners to meet deadline

4:13 pm on 9 December 2021

Wellington City Council will try incentivise earthquake-prone building owners meet their quickly-approaching deadlines.

WELLINGTON - AUG 22 2014:Traffic on Featherston Street, in the  central business district of Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand.

There are 590 earthquake-prone buildings in Wellington city. Photo: 123RF

A report to the infrastructure committee shows council doesn't know how many buildings are on track.

There are around 590 earthquake prone buildings in the city, and just over half of those have until 2027 to either strengthen or be demolished.

A survey trying to check in with progress had just 40 percent of building owners respond.

Head of Resilience for the city council Hayley Moselen said it had left them with a blind spot.

"We still don't have any real information of those 60 percent who didn't respond," Moselen said.

Council will now consider adding financial incentives to get building owners over the line for work needing to be done.

Currently, a number of rates rebates options are available for owners undertaking strengthening work.

But survey results show even the few who submitted did not know such incentives were available.

Councillors agreed more needed to be done to let owners know what help was available.

The council is also developing its enforcement action policy, which will outline what will happen if buildings pass their deadlines without solution.

Two forced vacations of expired building have already been made to date.

Of those who responded to the survey, 76 percent of owners had already engaged with engineers.

It's estimated that even if 75 percent of building owners met their deadlines, 100 buildings could still need to be vacated.

"Consequences for the city of that level of vacant buildings, in a housing crisis, are potentially very negative," the report reads.

Concerns were raised about the market's capacity to take on this work, as prices for strengthening continue to rise.

Hazel Kirkham, a member of lobby group Inner City Wellington, said the council was determined to try to do something that was not possible.

"Enforcement policies, fines, compulsory demolition, incentives, engagement... these people are not just being awkward, they cannot comply," Kirkham said.

Wellington councillor Nicola Young

Councillor Nicola Young wants to know how the buildings will be fixed. Photo: Sharon Brettkelly

"What you need to do is not wait and see, but get up and get a better understanding of the situation."

Councillor Nicola Young said focus needed to be on how Wellington's earthquake prone buildings would be fixed.

"We have to start thinking about what projects we are going to cut because otherwise, the problem won't be the buildings, the problem will be there are no ratepayers here because they would have gone off somewhere else," she said.

Results of the survey will be sent to the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment.

Council officers will come back with advice on incentives before Annual Plan deliberations in February.

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