Wellingtonians calling for changes to earthquake strengthening rules

2:06 pm on 18 April 2024
WELLINGTON - AUG 22 2014:Traffic on Featherston Street, in the  central business district of Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand.

Photo: 123RF

Some Wellingtonians are calling for changes to earthquake strengthening rules for buildings.

The current rules, put in place in 2017, require buildings to be remediated before set dates.

Minister for Building and Construction Chris Penk has announced owners will now have four extra years to fix their buildings while a regulation review takes place.

The review was scheduled for 2027 but has been brought forward to start immediately.

Inner City Wellington seismic spokesperson Geraldine Murphy told Morning Report they have been calling for a review for five years.

"The compliance burdens of this legislation particularly on apartment owners which are just homeowners like everybody else are risky, are expensive, are complex and are made in multi-owner environments."

Murphy said seismic rules in New Zealand were different to every other jurisdiction she has looked at.

"They don't have this one size fits all [approach], where you go and access a building and you say 'ah that bit there is earthquake prone', therefore your building is earthquake prone."

She said the building standards needed to be more pragmatic and realistic about what the seismic risk was that was trying to be addressed.

McKee Fehl managing director Maurice Clark told RNZ the extension was an acceptance of the current environment for the building industry.

Clark said the local and national sector was facing high interest rates, high insurance, high regulation and low demand.

He said they were working on two heritage buildings now that were struggling to get tenants.

"You can't just spend a heap of money to strengthen something, and it just sits there empty."

Clark said there was a need for change in the regulation of earthquake strengthening.

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau said the announcement of a four-year extension and the earthquake-prone buildings review being brought forward would be a welcome relief for many Wellingtonians.

"This is an extremely complex issue. It's important that New Zealand has a system for strengthening buildings that is fit for purpose.

"The closure of earthquake-prone buildings come with significant social and economic costs, resulting in an often unaffordable and unsustainable position for building owners."

Meanwhile Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown also supported the government's announcement.

Brown said he would been calling for the government to review earthquake-strengthening rules.

"They make no sense for Auckland where our greatest risks are volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

"I'm not really convinced yet that this should apply at all in Auckland."

The extension will enable people to properly assess the needs of each and every property, he said.

"We don't want empty buildings in Auckland due to rules that don't make sense, especially at a time when Aucklanders are struggling."

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