Earthquake-prone Buildings Amendment Bill

The proposed amendment bill raises significant concerns about the maintenance of current building stock, the character and identity of towns and cities, and the economic and financial wellbeing of provincial councils and their communities. More than 7000 buildings south of Timaru would require upgrading, at a cost of $1.77 billion over a 15-year period.

Town Halls Merge 6

### ODT Online Mon, 24 Feb 2014
Councils aghast changes could cost billions
By Andrew Ashton
South Island councils are expected to offer a ”united front” in opposing new Government building regulations that could cost councils billions of dollars to implement.
Last year the Waitaki District Council joined the Dunedin and Invercargill city councils and the Central Otago, Clutha, Gore, Mackenzie, Southland, Timaru and Waimate district councils to present a joint submission on a discussion paper detailing proposed changes to the way earthquake-prone buildings are managed.
Read more

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

*Image: Town Halls and auxillary functions (clockwise from top left) Invercargill, Dunedin, Timaru and Oamaru – posterised by whatifdunedin


Filed under #eqnz, Architecture, Business, Construction, Democracy, Design, Economics, Geography, Heritage, IPENZ, Media, Name, New Zealand, NZHPT, People, Pics, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Town planning, Urban design, What stadium

30 responses to “Earthquake-prone Buildings Amendment Bill

  1. Ray

    It’s another way of insurance industry and local government taking money from those who can no longer afford to give it

  2. ### Tuesday 25 February 2014
    Radio NZ National
    Morning Report with Geoff Robinson & Simon Mercep
    08:41 Southern councils assess earthquake-prone buildings
    Councils in the lower South Island say a proposed law change to strengthen earthquake-prone buildings will cost them 1.7 billion dollars.
    Audio | Download: Ogg   MP3 ( 3′ 18″ )

  3. Reports on quake risk slow to get to council
    Some property owners in Dunedin are holding off supplying the city council with details on how their buildings would stand up to a significant earthquake.
    More than 2000 building owners have not submitted information requested by the Dunedin City Council nearly two years ago.

  4. Anonymous

    I think I can help with a template for the information document to be submitted by property owners with details on how their building would stand up to a significant earthquake: “It wouldn’t”

  5. Hype O'Thermia

    Doesn’t “risk” have to be reckoned with more complexity than panic?
    All activities are risky – eating – long term, mal- or over-nutrition, choking, allergy. Not eating… also risky.
    Probability of “significant” earthquake.
    ditto, occurring when building occupied (by how many?) or people nearby within danger area of its
    total collapse, or
    one brick falling off (could cause fatality), or
    some mid-point

    And so on, and compared with all the other risks, every day or occasionally.

    Is earthquake strengthening to the standard demanded the best use of money, to benefit health, wellbeing, survival, and individuals experience of life-worth-living? While the effects of childhood deprivation – illnesses, missed schooling, insecure and inadequate housing – continue with plenty of words expended but not nearly enough money sensibly employed (even if it “targets” or “stigmatises” or “interferes with parents’ rights”) shouldn’t all this earthquake-effect prevention be given more critical appraisal?

    Sure – the earthquake/buildings rules are easy. Make a standard, identify the buildings, use power of the law to enforce compliance. Children and others with poverty, housing, physical and mental health needs, and the downside of cheap easy-to-obtain alcohol: much more difficult and meaningful action is less politically acceptable.

    I don’t mean that unsafe buildings are not, well, unsafe. What I do mean is that the deaths and injuries from earthquakes, if put alongside the human cost of other issues not addressed, don’t look all that significant except that the way they occurred was so dramatic and occurred in the context of so much visible devastation.

  6. Anon; Exactly! The question in all of this is simply “34% of what?” Mr Hazelton wouldn’t know, nor would anyone else. It is analogous with “how long is a piece of string?” The building belongs to the owner, he/she choose to insure (or not) and it is a matter for them to negotiate the risk with the prospective insurer. If the insurers won’t handle it then the owner has the choice to either carry any risk themselves or the building comes down. Simple really. Oh, I forgot, you can’t pull a building down without permission. So, the owner has a dilemma. Bureaucracy holds him to ransom. So what ever happened to the ‘law of property rights’? Sucked up in red tape. At the end of the day,when it comes to earthquakes, floods, and other natural hazards, the risks are unquantifiable, so it’s a gamble that people and insurance companies take, knowing the odds. The choice is either have property or not. The state should stay right out of it.

    • Um, 34% of compliance with the current New Zealand building code…


      Policy decisions
      The Government has introduced legislation into Parliament to change the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings. The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill is available on the New Zealand Legislation website. Further details on the Parliamentary process can be found on the Parliament website.

      The changes follow recommendations by the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission and a comprehensive review (including consultation) by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

      Many earthquake-prone buildings in New Zealand are not being managed in a consistent, timely and cost effective way. A clear view has emerged that the current system is not achieving an acceptable level of risk in terms of protecting people from serious harm in moderate earthquakes.

      The new system is designed to strike a better balance between protecting people from harm in an earthquake and managing the costs of strengthening or removing earthquake prone buildings.

      It will give central Government a greater role in providing leadership and direction in relation to earthquake-prone buildings, to make better use of the resources and capability of central and local government.

      Key decisions
      • To identify those that are earthquake-prone, territorial authorities will have to complete a seismic assessment of all non-residential buildings and all multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings in their areas within five years of changes to the new legislation taking effect.
      • All earthquake-prone buildings will have to be strengthened, or demolished, within 20 years of the new legislation taking effect (i.e. assessment by territorial authorities within five years and strengthening within 15 years of assessment).
      • A publicly accessible register of earthquake-prone buildings will be set up by MBIE.
      Certain buildings will be prioritised for assessment and strengthening such as:
      – buildings likely to have a significant impact on public safety, eg those with potential falling hazards
      – strategically important buildings, eg those on transport routes identified as critical in an emergency.
      • Owners of some buildings will be able to apply for exemptions from the national timeframe for strengthening. These will be buildings where the effects of them failing are likely to be minimal and could include farm buildings with little passing traffic.
      • Owners of earthquake-prone category 1 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.

      Once the Bill is passed into law, it is likely there will be a transition period before the law takes effect while detailed implementation issues are worked through. MBIE will be working with territorial authorities and engineers on implementing these changes.

  7. This programme, if it becomes law will see cities and towns with a preponderance of old stock, like Dunedin, will simply go even further into decline. The owners having to foot the bill for upgrading, but unable to pass the costs onto the tenants (assuming they have some) will be, in many cases bankrupted. So watch this space over the next decade or two. Dunedin will, in my opinion be particularly hard hit. It’s got a demographic time bomb ticking away as we speak. This added impost will be the tipping point. Last one out turn off the lights.

    • Exactly so, Calvin. That stadium debt will never be paid back!
      (South Island councils are doing a joint submission – members of the public with any concerns should also make submissions)

  8. Submissions for what? For someone to take $623 million of Dunedin’s debt off our hands? South Island councils will be firing ‘spitballs’ at the moon on this one. Apart from Christchurch, the South Island means ‘diddly squat’ to this, or any other government. Face it, Dunedin’s broke, Christchurch is in the lap of the insurance gods. The votes are in the north, the population is continually drifting there as well. You only have to look at the latest census to see the writing on the wall. On that cherry note, I’m off to bed. Sweet dreams.

    • Ah no. Submissions on the Earthquake-prone Buildings Amendment Bill. South Island councils do represent a large chunk of New Zealand’s export economy…they do have bargaining power. If however the legislation in question is enacted as is, then the cumulative financial effect on Dunedin in particular, yes, will turn the lights out on most if not all small businesses in the city – and few can afford to become farmers, so escape/retreat to the rural climes ain’t gonna happen. And Auckland property values mean no relief there. Maybe National want us all to move to Christchurch’s flooded gutters at subsistence level to justify their investment in big projects in that (un)fair city.

  9. ### ODT Online Tue, 11 Mar 2014
    Bell Tea to close Dunedin factory
    By Vaughan Elder
    New Zealand’s oldest tea company, Bell Tea, is set to shut its Dunedin factory next month, ending more than 100 years of tea production in the city.
    Bell Tea and Coffee Co chief executive Mark Hamilton travelled to Dunedin yesterday to tell the factory’s 10 staff the cost of earthquake strengthening and other required work – estimated at more than $1 million – meant its operation was no longer viable.
    Read more


    ### ODT Online Tue, 11 Mar 2014
    Courthouse contract likely let this month
    By Rosie Manins
    A contract to upgrade Dunedin’s historic courthouse is likely to be awarded at the end of the month. The Ministry of Justice was ”close” to making an announcement about the successful contractor, a spokesman said yesterday. The ministry has not confirmed how much the project will cost, but estimates based on previous engineering reports suggest an upgrade in line with new Building Act requirements would cost between $3 million and $10 million. The ministry expected the work to take about two years.
    Read more

  10. Earthquake strengthening requirement will trigger fire system and building access work. Government’s proposed amendment bill will impose substantial council inspection costs as well as bring potential devastating effects on Dunedin businesses and the city’s built environment.

  11. Ian Harrison set to slay the Dragon… (Fuckwit Maurice Williamson, Fat Brownlee, and mates at National). Go Ian!!!!

    $10b quake upgrade a waste: economist

    Always good to use an “Auckland” test when you’re dealing with drongos at Beehive, Wellington.

    “Compliance with the minimum standard could cost over $3 billion in Auckland but is expected to take 4000 years to save a single life. Three to eight Aucklanders are expected to die as a result of financial stress caused by the policy.”

  12. ### ODT Online Wed, 2 Apr 2014
    Quake rules hit heritage efforts
    By Chris Morris
    Dunedin city councillors fear a tough new approach to New Zealand’s earthquake-prone buildings risks derailing progress upgrading Dunedin’s heritage buildings.
    Read more

  13. The Building Act defined buildings less than 34 per cent of new building standard as “earthquake-prone” and required councils to have a policy towards managing them.

    ### NZ Herald Online 5:30 AM Wednesday Mar 6, 2013
    Owners face cruel dilemma
    Buildings too expensive to modify but with valuable renovations are being denied earthquake insurance. […] Rising insurance costs and prohibitive repair bills to strengthen earthquake-prone buildings have the potential to change the face of character areas, such as Kingsland, Ponsonby and Mt Eden in Auckland; and many provincial town centres, like Wanganui. The Government is proposing seismic assessment of all commercial and high-rise, multi-unit buildings – believed to be 193,000 properties. The focus will be on buildings built before 1976. Those not upgraded to withstand a moderate-sized earthquake within 10 years of assessment would have to be demolished. It is estimated between 15,000 and 25,000 buildings will have to be strengthened or demolished, and this number could rise. […] The Government’s timeframe to strengthen or demolish a quake-prone building within 10 years of assessment is much shorter than the 20 to 30 years proposed by the Auckland Council.
    Read more


    ### Last updated 12:47 10/10/2013
    Editorial: Unfair demands on building owners
    OPINION: Most of us value history and tradition. Whether it’s an old building, a statue or a work of art, we appreciate something that gives us a mirror into a bygone era. True, some rather shallow individuals couldn’t give a fig about history, but most people cherish it. Therefore we like the idea that some buildings are heritage listed. We believe heritage-listed buildings should be protected. Owners should not be able to tear them down with little more than a shrug of their shoulders. However, having said that, some fairness and common sense must apply. The issue is topical because Mark Dunajtschik has been fighting a legal battle for the right to demolish the Harcourts building he owns in Lambton Quay. His building has been declared earthquake prone. Anything less than 33 per cent of the building code is regarded as an earthquake risk. The Harcourts building is only 17 per cent. While we don’t want to lose all our heritage buildings, and we don’t want our city to be full of buildings likely to fall down and kill people, there still needs to be an element of fairness. The plight of the building owners needs to be considered. The city council (supported this week by the Environment Court) has told Mr Dunajtschik that not only can he not demolish his building, but that that he must fork out several million dollars to have it earthquake strengthened. And it is not just Mr Dunajtschik who finds himself in a lose-lose position.
    Read more

  14. ### April 10, 2014 – 6:02pm
    DCC push for changes to government earthquake-prone buildings legislation
    The Dunedin City Council is pushing for changes to government earthquake-prone buildings legislation it says does not recognise the city’s larger stock of heritage buildings. A meeting on Monday will discuss the council’s submission on the issue. The submission notes the strategic importance of heritage buildings to Dunedin, and questions what it says is a ”one size fits all” approach. The cost of assessing buildings under the proposed legislation has been estimated at up to $5.6m, which the council says is a significant cost.
    Ch39 link [no video available]

    • Hype O'Thermia

      It’s crazy unless there’s been analysis – not panic, not emotionalism – of probable risk in terms of lives at risk per year, and how that compared with other use for the money in, e.g. altering roads where angles, visibility , camber or other factors make them chronic accident sites, or medical/dental/psychiatric health interventions for at-risk members of society.

  15. Report to be tabled at Monday’s DCC council meeting starting at 2pm (14 April):

    Report – Council – 14/04/2014 (PDF, 1019.4 KB)
    ‘Building (Earthquake-Prone Buildings) Amendment Bill 2013’ Submission

  16. This has all the makings of another’ bureaucratic boondoggle’. Forty page report to council for discussion and decision. Among the findings is, naturally enough, the – guestimated – cost of $5m plus to carry out the inspection of all these buildings. Of course, that will necessitate an increase in staff thus costs to the ratepayers will be increased. Now, why does that not surprise me? Here’s the rub: where do these people get the idea that they can second guess God? What earthquake are they going to cover? Will it be a magnitude 4.5, 7.5, 9 or anything in between? How will the quake of concern manifest itself? violent lateral, vertical or wave like? Centered at what depth and lateral distance from the point of concern? In a word, how long is a piece of string? New buildings will be built to latest designs, existing buildings, having stood the test of time to date, would be the risk of the owners, and in turn, the occupiers. Why should any unpredictable, undefined event be used as the means of forcing a misallocation of capital and resources against something which may never happen, either in the time or intensity supposedly being covered? These events can only be dealt with as they arise. This was/is demonstrated in the wake of the Christchurch event, and the devastation was random of buildings new and old, regardless. Still, it gives the muppets something to get their teeth into I suppose.

  17. Fears have been raised in Dunedin that a tough new approach to earthquake-prone buildings risks derailing progress on the city’s heritage buildings.

    ### April 23, 2014 – 5:51pm
    Auckland Mayor joins lobby for changes to earthquake-prone buildings legislation
    Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has welcomed support from his Auckland counterpart, as southern councils lobby for changes to earthquake-prone buildings legislation. Auckland Mayor Len Brown has added his voice to the concerns, adding his name to a letter to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee considering the issue. Brown says Auckland and southern councils have identified common issues he believes need serious consideration by the select committee. Cull says he welcomes the support from Auckland.
    Ch39 Link

  18. Dunedin City Council – Media Release
    Auckland, Southern Councils join on Earthquake Prone Buildings

    This item was published on 22 Apr 2014

    Auckland and Southern Councils have come together in response to proposed Government changes to earthquake Building rules. Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull have written to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee considering the Building (Earthquake-Prone Buildings) Amendment Bill to express their concerns with the proposals.

    “We have identified some common issues which we believe need serious consideration by the select committee,” says Len Brown. “It is clear that further work is needed and we encourage select committee members to act on these submissions before the Bill is passed into law.”

    Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and spokesperson for the Southern Councils welcomes the support from Len Brown, saying that it adds even greater impetus to the submissions.

    “There has been a great deal of cooperation between our Southern Councils in bringing this submission together. Having the support of the Mayor of Auckland sends a strong message that the proposed changes to the legislation will have significant impacts for rural, provincial and metropolitan centres across the country,” says Mayor Cull.

    “We believe the Auckland and joint Southern Councils send a strong message to the Select Committee and we look forward to discussing our submissions with them.”

    Waitaki District Mayor Gary Kircher acknowledges that, while a submission from the largest council in New Zealand may vary somewhat to a joint submission from rural and provincial councils in the South Island, there is common ground.

    “As we have stated in the past, we are all fully committed to ensuring our buildings are safe and that any strengthening work is carried out in a pragmatic way. We believe local solutions can be found at a local level.”

    For further information please contact:
    Glyn Jones
    Chief Mayoral Press Secretary
    Auckland Council
    Phone: 021 475 897
    Email: glyn.jones @

    Mayor Dave Cull
    Dunedin City Council
    Phone: 0274 346 917
    Email: dcull @

    Mayor Gary Kircher
    Waitaki District Council
    Phone: 021 463 546
    Email: gkircher @

    Contact DCC on 477 4000.

    DCC Link

  19. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Fri, 27 Jun 2014
    Bleak outlook for heritage towns
    By Chris Morris
    Heritage towns like Lawrence and Clyde could be gutted and millions of dollars of extra costs foisted on ratepayers under proposed changes to earthquake-prone buildings legislation, the region’s mayors warn. The bleak picture was painted as southern mayors presented submissions on the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill to the local government and environment select committee in Dunedin yesterday. The proposed changes could result in gaping holes in Oamaru’s Victorian streetscape, the derailing of a successful heritage building restoration drive in Dunedin and the gutting of heritage centres like Lawrence and Clyde, the committee was told.
    Read more


    Politics on sidelines
    There were snipes, barbed comments and echoes of Maurice Williamson’s ministerial resignation as Parliament’s politics came to town yesterday.

  20. Elizabeth

    ### June 27, 2014 – 5:59pm
    Council extends deadline on earthquake strengthening
    The Dunedin City Council has accepted it will take far longer for the city’s earthquake-prone buildings to be formally assessed. 

  21. Elizabeth

    No accident Council gets ‘friend’ to speak out on earthquake strengthening – Oakwood Properties has been one of the lead sponsors for the Dunedin Heritage Awards since 2011. Not every property owner has millions to spend like Dunedin’s Marsh family. Although, yes of course the hope is that owners will strengthen, not demolish or demolish by neglect.

    ### ODT Online Mon, 15 Sep 2014
    Happy to spend ‘millions’ on old buildings
    By Sally Rae
    While changes to earthquake-strengthening rules caused controversy, Oakwood Properties director David Marsh sees them as an opportunity.
    It was a good chance to renew Dunedin’s heritage building stock and give buildings a new lease of life, Mr Marsh said. ”We’ve got a positive view of it. It’s all pretty exciting. Some people are running from it; I think you’ve got to embrace it,” he said. Oakwood Properties was spending ”millions” upgrading some of its buildings, including the Robert Burns Hotel and adjacent properties in George St, including the former Johnson’s Fish Shop.
    Read more

    █ Dunedin Heritage Awards

    █ Oakwood Properties Earthquake-Strengthening Award

  22. Elizabeth

    ### NZ Herald Online 5:00 AM Tuesday Aug 4, 2015
    Call to tackle tax rules on seismic work
    By Anne Gibson
    The head of a listed landlord with $2.2 billion of property investments has called for tax issues on seismic building strengthening to be addressed. Chris Gudgeon, Kiwi Property chief executive, said owners would be penalised by a building strengthening law due to be passed soon. Tax deductibility could be claimed if buildings fell down but no recompense could be claimed if the owners strengthened their buildings, Gudgeon said. “Put simply – do nothing, earthquake strikes, tax deductibility on losses [or] do something, strengthen building, no deductibility,” he said.
    Read more

  23. Elizabeth

    Affected buildings in low-risk areas such as Auckland, Northland and Dunedin will now need to be identified and assessed within 15 years and strengthened within a further 35 years.

    ### ODT Online Wed, 2 Sep 2015
    New timeframe to strengthen quake-prone buildings
    By Nicholas Jones – NZ Herald
    Buildings with verandas and other features that could collapse into busy areas will need to be earthquake-strengthened in half the time, the Government has announced. Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith said the decision to make a new category of building in new strengthening laws came after a strong submission from Canterbury earthquake survivor and Lincoln University lecturer Ann Brower. NZME
    Read more

  24. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Sat, 5 Sep 2015
    Editorial: Earthquake persistence pays
    OPINION Sometimes individuals can make a difference. Sometimes their skill and persistence wins through and policies are amended. This is the case with planned changes to earthquake-strengthening requirements. […] It was reported back from select committee this week, and Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith said a new category of building had been introduced after a strong submission from Dr [Ann] Brower. […] The select committee has listened and created this new category for buildings with unreinforced masonry features that could fall into a public road, footpath or other thoroughfare identified by a council as being sufficiently busy to warrant priority treatment.
    Read more

  25. Gurglars

    Until modern man realises that all are going to die, it is just when that is unknown, we will still have bureacrats, police and governments enabled to tax and rate and harass its citizens in the forlorn hope of avoiding death.

    Most of the left are concerned about an overpopulated world. If we left man to ensure his own survival a little more we would have a less populous, more wealth per capita and we would not have to be so concerned about issues over which we have little or no effect.

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