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No big shake-up for earthquake-prone buildings

No big shake-up for earthquake-prone buildings

Auckland City Council will adopt a common sense approach to enforcing new Building Act requirements for earthquake-prone buildings to minimise costs to owners.

A policy on implementing the requirements has been approved by the Planning and Regulatory Committee and will go to council for formal adoption.

The policy aims to reduce the risk to people by making suspect buildings more able to withstand an earthquake. The council’s approach to safeguarding people from buildings considered to be dangerous or insanitary is also covered in the policy.

Under the Building Act 2004, more buildings are potentially covered by the earthquake-prone definition than the 1991 Act and a higher level of structural strength is required.

Small residential buildings are still exempt.

In most cases, owners will not be required to upgrade their buildings unless they apply to change the use of the building under the act.

Heritage buildings in particular will receive special consideration to ensure that strengthening work does not adversely affect the intrinsic value of the building.

Heritage buildings are classified as those

o scheduled under the district plan
o in a conservation area or character zone
o registered under the Historic Places Act 1933
o constructed before 1900

“Auckland is not an area particularly noted for seismic activity so we can take a more light-handed approach to the way we implement new requirements,” said committee chairperson Councillor Glenda Fryer.

“We are still bound by the new act but we have the flexibility to implement it in way that is acceptable to the community in social and economic terms.”

She said the policy reflected the council’s desire to create a safer city in which to live, work and play.

The policy was drafted following community consultation, a councillor working party study, and two hearings. “It’s been a robust process and I hope most affected parties will appreciate our pragmatic approach,” said Councillor Fryer.

By June 2007 the council has to compile a register of all buildings that could be earthquake prone, based on age, building use, construction form and materials. Stage two of the policy will be implemented by December 2010 and owners will be advised of their building’s status.

The new policy also covers the identification of buildings that may be dangerous possibly through lack of maintenance, or from illegal building alterations. Dangers could include inadequate fire protection, means of escape or danger of collapse.

Regulations covering insanitary buildings refer to those presenting health and safety issues through disrepair, dampness, lack of potable water or inadequate sanitary facilities.


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