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Developing earthquake-prone buildings policies

8 February 2006

Get involved in developing earthquake-prone buildings policies

Building Issues Minister Clayton Cosgrove is urging communities to get involved with developing their councils’ earthquake-prone building policies - saying the decisions rest in local hands.

The Building Act 2004 requires territorial authorities to have a policy about earthquake prone buildings in their area, including heritage buildings.

“The provisions were designed to allow consultation between local councils and building owners and users in developing their policies. If communities have issues with the draft policies, they should say so through the consultation process with those authorities,” he says.

Policies should indicate how councils would manage the different needs of private and public owners of heritage buildings. Special implementation measures available to territorial authorities include upgrade time extensions or even in some cases, exemptions.

Mr Cosgrove says earthquakes are a fact of life. Last week he marked the 75th anniversary of the 1931 Napier earthquake, which claimed 256 lives.

“The changes brought in by the Act recognise that a wide range of buildings may be damaged in the event of an earthquake, and the building owner and insurer would meet the cost. It is important the government keep earthquake risk reduction on the agenda," he says.

Mr Cosgrove said it would be up to the owners of the buildings to pay for remedial work, and not Central Government. “Any costs incurred in remedial work deemed to be required by a council would translate into investment in the building,” he said.

"It is important to note that councils have a discretion about what they do. They must specify how they intend exercising that discretion,” he says.

"And ultimately different councils will adopt different approaches, depending on their earthquake risk. For example, the Waitaki District Council is reported to be considering taking a reactive stance to the new rules, meaning that a building would only need to be earthquake proofed if a consent was lodged to modify it, or complaint was made."

ENDS

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