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National earthquake standards unaffordable for communities

8 May 2014

National earthquake standards unaffordable for some communities

A policy requiring buildings to be demolished or upgraded to national earthquake standards is excessive and could be unaffordable for some communities, says BusinessNZ.

BusinessNZ economist John Pask says the policy is not necessary because normal market pressures are already leading to buildings being upgraded or demolished where needed.

“Earthquake-vulnerable buildings are already attracting higher insurance premiums and this will automatically lead to building owners strengthening them accordingly or demolishing them.

“Putting a regulatory requirement on top of this situation, where building owners have to upgrade or demolish within 20 years, is unnecessary.

“Smaller communities with older buildings could struggle to pay for extensive upgrading and might be forced to pull them down. The policy could lead to many buildings across the country being demolished needlessly.

“In many communities, common sense actions like removing unstable facades would be more realistic than significant strengthening to meet national standards, especially since earthquake risk differs in different places.

“The policy’s one-size-fits-all requirement does not take account of local conditions. Local authorities should be able to deal with earthquake risk according to their local risk profile so trade-offs can be made by communities most likely to be affected by earthquake-prone buildings.”

Mr Pask was presenting BusinessNZ’s submission on the Building (Earthquake-Prone Buildings) Amendment Bill to Parliament’s Local Government and Environment Select Committee.

ENDS

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