If you are a building owner, you will have heard of planned law
changes relating to the requirements for assessing, strengthening
or demolishing earthquake-prone buildings.
The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill
(Bill) has been progressing through Parliament.
After receiving a lot of submissions on the Bill, the Government
has already signalled various changes, including extending the
timeframe for compliance and exempting farm buildings.
Because of the number of changes on the Bill, the Select
Committee has taken the unusual step of releasing an interim
report, and asking for further submissions on the proposed changes.
This means that we now have a further opportunity to influence the
outcome of this legislation.
Submissions are being particularly requested on the following
Should different timeframes for identifying and
remediating earthquake-prone buildings apply, based on the seismic
risk of the area?
MBIE has recommended that New Zealand be categorised into low,
medium and high seismic risk zones, with timeframes for assessment
of buildings of five, 10 and 15 years respectively, and for
strengthening of buildings of 15, 25 and 35 years respectively.
(The previous Bill wording required all earthquake-prone buildings
in New Zealand be remediated within 15 years after assessment.)
Which types of buildings should be prioritised ahead of
MBIE's suggestion is that hospitals, schools, emergency
service facilities (such as fire stations and police stations) and
other buildings on main transport corridors which are in areas of
medium or high seismic risk should be strengthened within half of
the standard time frame. (The previous Bill allowed for regulations
to be made to designate priority buildings, rather than including
those details in the Bill.)
Which types of buildings should be
MBIE has recommended also excluding farm buildings, retaining
walls, fences, monuments that cannot be entered (such as statues),
wharves, bridges, tunnels, and storage tanks (including water
reservoirs). (The previous Bill wording only exempted certain
Should a council be permitted to allow
earthquake-strengthening work on earthquake-prone buildings,
without requiring upgrades to means of escape from fire, or to
access and facilities for people with disabilities?
Currently any building work requiring a building consent may
trigger upgrade requirements. This can greatly increase the cost of
If a "substantial alteration" is being done
on an earthquake-prone building ahead of the required remediation
timeframes, should a council require the earthquake-strengthening
work to be done at the same time?
Under the current law, individual councils are able to create
their own earthquake-prone building policy, which includes whether
or not building owners are required to strengthen their buildings
at the same time as carrying out other work to the building. In
practice, some councils adopted a more active policy than this,
where even those councils with a 'passive' policy did
require strengthening work to be carried out whenever an
application for building consent for a substantial alteration was
made. This proposal suggests making this requirement a national
mandatory requirement, rather than leaving this to each
In addition, a key change to the Bill is that the building owner
will now be expected to arrange, and incur the cost of undertaking,
the engineering assessment on a building which the relevant council
initially identifies as potentially earthquake-prone. This
transfers the cost onto building owners where previously the
relevant council was to undertake the initial assessment. Building
owners will be required to do this within 12 months of the
council's notice, but can apply for an extension if they
can't comply within the timeframe because of a shortage of
A copy of the interim report is available
here. Submissions are open until 16 July
We are happy to assist you to prepare submissions, and recommend
that you consider this if you own any buildings that may
potentially be earthquake-prone.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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