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Earthquake-prone buildings policy must be balanced

Spokesperson for Building and Construction

Earthquake-prone buildings policy must be balanced

The Government’s policy to deal with earthquake-prone buildings must balance public safety, costs, heritage issues and the wider interests of communities, says Labour’s Building and Construction spokesperson Raymond Huo.

“The costs associated with strengthening buildings; concerns that a one-size-fits-all approach would see businesses and communities ignored, and the importance of protecting heritage stock were all issues raised during the review of the earthquake-prone buildings policy.

“Due consideration needs to be given to each of these concerns, as well as those expressed by affected parties about the difficulty of obtaining insurance for older buildings, buildings just above the earthquake-prone threshold, and those that are earthquake-prone.

“A recent survey by the Wellington City Council indicated that around half of the earthquake-prone building owners had difficulty getting insurance, and many faced premium increases of more than 50 per cent.

“We don’t want to see businesses go belly-up, nor do we want to see community character and heritage interests overlooked.

“Submitters at the stage of the review were also eager to communicate that a lack of insurance impacts on a building owners ability to obtain a loan in order to pay for the strengthening work to be done. This process can be a costly chicken/egg situation.

“Concerns from submitters such as the New Zealand Heritage Trust Board, note that while many heritage buildings are privately owned, these places are often of value to society as a whole -- yet private owners are shouldering these costs singlehandedly.

“Ensuring that disability access is not affected by upgrades is also important.

“While Labour welcomes the Government’s intention to introduce legislation to amend the Building Act 2004, further details are still required. Any legislation the Government proceeds with needs to be developed as an integrated package, rather than in a piecemeal manner like the Building Amendment Bills (No 3) and (No 4), introduced by the Minister Maurice Williamson.”


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