17 Jun 2014

700 Wellington buildings quake-prone

1:13 pm on 17 June 2014

Wellington City Council has identified almost 700 buildings as earthquake-prone and five that are uninhabitable. Since 2006 more than 5000 buildings have been assessed and work is likely to continue for another two years.

Preparations are made to demolish the lift shift.

The nine-storey lift shaft on Lukes Lane in Wellington was demolished after being deemed too dangerous in an earthquake. Photo: RNZ

The latest figures show more than 670 buildings have been yellow-stickered by the council, including 138 heritage buildings.

This means they rate at less than 34 percent of compliance. Generally, landlords have 15 years to bring their buildings up to scratch.

In addition, five buildings have been red stickered, meaning no one can occupy them.

The council's manager of building resilience, Neville Brown, said the council's interest in a building stopped once it was assessed as meeting the new building standards.

"In some cases for some buildings it can be quite cost-effective to get over the threshold. We wouldn't recommend that's where you stay, in terms of getting off notices and our interest. As I say that stops at 34 percent" he said.

From July, the council is offering rates relief to some owners of earthquake-prone buildings.

The Property Council says property prices have fallen since the public's awareness about the need for seismic strengthening.

Its Wellington president, Andrew Hay, said many are owned by charitable trusts, not-for-profit groups or individuals, rather than property investors. As a result, some older buildings with seismic issues have dropped in value and are now being put on the market.

"Often you'll find the owners stuck and can't go forward and can't go backwards, because they've suddenly found that the building that they have owned for many years is worth a lot less than what it was in the past, based on the demand that's now there for seismically framed buildings."

Mr Hay said the council's initiatives, which include a rates rebate and ring-fencing the rates on historic buildings when they are strengthened, would help building owners.

Yellow sticker on the Dominion Post Building on Boulcott Street, Wellington.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Irene Wood's home in the Wellington suburb of Mount Cook has been labelled as quake-prone but she says there is no way she can come up with the at least $100,000 needed to bring it up to the minimum 33 percent requirement.

Ms Wood said someone at the city council advised her to sell her home, but she did not think anyone would buy it when it was not up to the standard and she did not know what to do.

Tony Simpson owns a flat in one of the yellow-stickered buildings and said the cost to fix the complex is more than $1 million.

Mr Simpson said it would help if the council waived some resource consent costs, but he could not see that happening.