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Act shake-up leads to new earthquake policy

9 February 2006

Building Act shake-up leads to new earthquake policy

Auckland City is working to minimise the impact on property owners who may have to upgrade their buildings to meet new earthquake strengthening requirements.

Recent changes to the Building Act mean the council is required to introduce an Earthquake Prone and Dangerous Buildings Policy, which will detail new earthquake standards for commercial properties.

The chairperson of the council's Planning and Regulatory Committee, Glenda Fryer, says although the risk of an earthquake in Auckland is low, it's still important that the city's buildings are strong and safe enough to withstand such a natural disaster.

"This council is committed to ensuring that the city is a safe place to live and work. We need to know that our buildings meet certain standards and that they're future-proofed.

"However, we do not want to put undue pressure on property owners, nor do we want to cause them financial hardship by forcing them to upgrade their buildings immediately."

Ms Fryer says in most cases the council would only require strengthening work to be undertaken when a building consent was lodged for other building work. She says this should limit the impact on property owners.

"This is a sensible and pragmatic approach that sees the council working with building owners to bring about a staged approach to strengthening work.

"We have to recognise that Auckland is at low risk of earthquakes and that a lot of our commercial properties were built in the past 20 years, so many already meet building code requirements."

She says the council will undertake a staged approach to introduce the new policy, beginning with a comprehensive survey of all properties to determine exactly how many may be earthquake prone.

"It's inevitable that some buildings will require strengthening work and the council will strive to work with owners to develop an agreed approach for the upgrade of these buildings."

Ms Fryer says special consideration will be given to heritage buildings and the council will liaise closely with property owners on any upgrading work that may be required.

The draft Earthquake Prone and Dangerous Buildings Policy will soon be available for public consultation. The policy does not apply to small residential buildings.

A final policy should be adopted by the council later in the year.

ENDS


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