The Government is proposing an amendment to the Building Act to deal with earthquake-prone buildings following the tragic events in Christchurch. The Bill has been the subject of much debate given the huge potential financial ramifications for NZ's commercial property owners however it appears that the Bill is moving into its final stages of completion.

Based on the current information to hand, we believe that the bill is likely to contain the following principles:

  1. It will most likely set 33% of new building standard (NBS) as the threshold as to whether a building is earthquake-prone or not;
  2. It will require Councils to undertake an assessment of the earthquake-prone status of its local buildings within five years of the Bill coming into effect and provide notices of its assessments to property owners; and
  3. Queenstown is likely to be determined as being within the high seismic risk area, thereby meaning that if a building is below 33% of NBS then the property owner will only have 15 years to strengthen or demolish the building following receipt of the council's assessment. In other parts of NZ, the timeframe will be 25 years for buildings in the medium seismic risk area and 35 years in the low seismic risk area.

Our enquiries indicate that the Queenstown Lakes District Council has not, as yet, carried out any form of earthquake-prone assessment of the Queenstown buildings and do not intend to do so until such time as the Bill is finally passed into law.

Accordingly, unless your building has received some form of notice to rectify from Council under Section 124 of the current Building Act 2004 then no action is required of you at this stage under the Building Act. It would be very wise, however, to review your insurance policies and ensure you are fully covered.

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.