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Earthquake-prone buildings policy announced

Hon Maurice Williamson
Minister for Building and Construction
7 August 2013 Media Statement
Earthquake-prone buildings policy announced

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson today announced the Government’s policy to deal with earthquake-prone buildings.

“Under a nationally consistent system, an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 earthquake-prone buildings will be identified through assessments within five years of legislation taking effect. Those building owners will then have another 15 years to carry out strengthening work or have buildings demolished. The timeframe is five years longer than initially proposed.

“There will be extensions of up to 10 years from the national timeframe for strengthening for owners of earthquake-prone Category 1 heritage buildings and those on the proposed National Historic Landmarks List. There will also be exemptions available for buildings where the impact of failure is low, such as farm outbuildings and some rural halls and churches.

“The current strengthening requirements for earthquake-prone buildings will not change. Owners will still have to strengthen to 34 per cent of the new building standard (NBS).

“A public register of earthquake-prone buildings will be created by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment,” Mr Williamson says.

The Government’s decisions are broadly in line with the recommendations in Volume 4 of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission report.

“Central Government will now have a greater role in providing leadership and direction in relation to earthquake-prone buildings.

“The revamped system strikes a balance between protecting people from harm in an earthquake, and managing the costs of strengthening or removing buildings. It takes into account the views of 535 submissions made and feedback from public meetings.

“The main change from the original proposals is the timeframe to deal with earthquake-prone buildings has been extended by five years to 20 years. The overwhelming sentiment from submitters was that 15 years was too short. Overall, earthquake-prone buildings will be dealt with eight years faster than the current average of 28 years.

“The issue of financial incentives was raised during consultation and the Government has agreed to look at the issue in further detail in the coming months,” Mr Williamson says.

Owners who’ve already had a seismic assessment under the current regime and been given less than 15 years to do strengthening will have to work to the timeframe they’ve been given.

Stand-alone homes will not be affected under the new system, but all non-residential and multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings will have to comply.

In summary the decisions are:

• Territorial authorities will need to complete a seismic assessment of all non-residential and multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings in their areas within five years of changes to new legislation taking effect. The assessment will include an evaluation of building plans, location and easily observable building characteristics.
• Building owners will receive the results of assessments and this information will be entered onto a publicly accessible national register of earthquake-prone buildings established by MBIE.
• Following assessments, earthquake-prone buildings will have to be strengthened or demolished within 15 years (except buildings that may be eligible for exemptions and/or extensions to this timeframe).
• Certain buildings will be prioritised for assessment and strengthening, such as buildings likely to have a significant impact on public safety (including buildings with high risk elements such as potential falling hazards) and strategically important buildings, including those on transport routes identified as critical in an emergency.
• Owners of some buildings will be able to get exemptions from or extensions to the national timeframe for strengthening. Exemptions will be for buildings where the effects of them failing are likely to be minimal. Owners of earthquake-prone Category 1 heritage buildings (listed on the Register of Historic Places under the Historic Places Act 1993) and those on the proposed National Historic Landmarks List will be able to apply for extensions of up to 10 years to the national timeframe for strengthening.

“The Government intends to introduce legislation in Parliament to amend the Building Act (2004) this year,” Mr Williamson says.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is also preparing guidance for building owners and employers on their responsibilities where the requirements of the Building Act and the Health and Safety in Employment Act overlap. This guidance will be available in October.

For more information and a summary of submissions visit:


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