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Report Offers Building Owners More Certainty About Standards

Report Offers Building Owners More Certainty About Standards

Building owners now have more certainty about earthquake-prone building standards and acceptable levels of stability and safety, according to Property Council New Zealand.

Today’s release of Volume 4 of the Canterbury Earthquake Royal Commission’s final report on building failure during the Canterbury earthquakes and the Government’s draft proposals to improve the earthquake-prone building system provide some welcome recommendations, after months of analysis and industry consultation.

Property Council’s chief executive Connal Townsend said the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment [MBIE] consultation document focuses on acceptable levels of risk and protecting people from harm.

“Consequently, it recommends ensuring all buildings are assessed and where necessary, strengthened to meet 33 per cent of New Build Standard within a 15 year timeframe. The document appears to balance practical solutions with the highest safety benefits.

“The Government’s extensive consultation has resulted in a policy where tenants will ultimately influence building standards by demanding high standards of earthquake strengthening. An improved risk assessment of a building during an earthquake includes a new graduated scale that will allow the public to be much better informed about a building’s level of resilience. Owners of low resilience buildings can be forced into remedying or removing it.”

Mr Townsend said the Government’s proposed timeframes for strengthening took into account that hundreds of thousands of buildings in New Zealand could not be strengthened overnight. “A lack of skilled engineers and legal issues to do with lease agreements are just two issues which tend to affect progress.”

Under the proposed changes, local authorities would have five years to complete a desk top assessment of buildings. “Once we know the scale of work needed to upgrade building stock, we will have a better understanding of the cost. What we do know is that this will cost our industry - our country - billions of dollars to address.

“The Government conservatively indicates a $1.68 billion cost to strengthen all buildings under the proposed system. This will largely fall on building owners - already bearing huge costs because they cannot claim tax depreciation for a building structure.

“Owners of heritage and character properties in particular, will find the cost of earthquake strengthening prohibitive. If we want to prevent owners from walking away, leaving properties vacant and tenantless, the Government needs to address this imbalance in the tax system.”


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