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February 16, 2016

EARTHQUAKE-PRONE BUILDINGS – AN UPDATE

The Building (Earthquake= Prone Buildings Amendment Bill will now be heading back to parliament for its second reading following the release of the Bill’s Supplementary Order Paper in November.

The Bill addresses the Government’s revised policy on managing earthquake risks by:

  • better targeting earthquake strengthening policies to the buildings which pose the greatest risk to life;
  • ensuring that the response to earthquake prone buildings was proportionate to risk, and that costs were minimised
  • ensuringas much built heritage as possible was retained.

Four significant changes to previous policy which are contained in the Bill are:

  • Varying the timetable for strengthening relative to earthquake risk.
  • Prioritising education and emergency buildings for strengthening.
  • Reducing the number of buildings requiring assessments.
  • Introducing new measures to encourage earlier upgrades.

The existing timeframes for identifying and assessing risk was five years with strengthening to be carried out within 15 years.  Under the amended policies, New Zealand is to be categorised into low, medium and high seismic risk zones with timeframes for assessment of 5, 10 and 15 years with timeframes for strengthening being 15, 25 and 35 years.

Education and emergency buildings and high and medium seismic risk areas will have the timeframes reduced.

The scope of buildings requiring assessment is to be reduced from an estimated 500,000 buildings to only 30,000.

Farm buildings, retaining walls, fences, monuments, wharves, bridges, tunnels and storage tanks will be excluded.  New methodology for identifying earthquake prone buildings will ensure the focus is on older buildings like unreinforced masonry that poses the greatest risk.

Earthquake-prone building definition is 34% of the new building standard (NBS).  A 10 year extension for listed heritage buildings and exemptions from strengthening for low risk, low occupancy buildings would remain.

For those Building owners who have already received notices under the existing law and who have an existing deadline for remediation work to be completed need to be aware of that the new time frames will not automatically apply to them once the new law comes into force.   Where a deadline under the new law is later than a deadline under the new law, the old deadline will apply unless the building owner applies to the territorial authority to have the deadline extended.   If the deadline under the new law is earlier than the deadline that applied under the old law, then the new law will apply and the deadline will come forward.