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Lower Hutt safer after quake-risk buildings constructed

All buildings in Lower Hutt with unreinforced masonry parapets and façades, deemed an earthquake risk to public safety, have been brought up to a safe standard.

Owners of 25 buildings met the 10 September deadline to secure street-facing unreinforced masonry (URM) that would pose a serious risk of injury or death to the public in the event of an earthquake.

Hutt City Council originally identified 72 buildings as potentially having URM. This number was reduced to 25 as more information on buildings came to light or as building owners quickly got on with the job of securing parapets and façades.

Council Building and Quality Assurance Manager Derek Kerite says the building owners should be commended for getting the work done by the 10 September deadline.

“Taking into account challenges like the availability of engineers and trades and the costs and complexity of this kind of work, building owners did well to meet the deadline,” he says.

“The overriding aim of this project is to protect life and limb, so it’s important to have this work completed, given the significant safety risk from unsecured parapets and façades.”

In the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, 39 people were killed and 110 injured by collapsing unreinforced concrete block, stone or brickwork.

In the wake of the 2016 Hurunui/Kaikōura earthquake, and following advice from GNS Science, the government amended the Building Act and Resource Management Act requiring owners in Lower Hutt, Wellington, Marlborough and Hurunui to secure any URM on their buildings.

The original 12-month deadline was extended in March this year for another six months for building owners who had made reasonable headway with the work. Any building owner who missed the new deadline would miss out on government and council financial subsidies.

Mr Kerite says Hutt City Council has taken a strict public safety first approach to earthquake-related safety, successfully prosecuting a quake-prone building owner earlier this year for failing to complete strengthening work. Had URM building owners failed to meet the deadline, council would have considered a range of options including applying to the court to secure the buildings itself and reclaiming any costs.

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