An additional four years for New Zealand’s earthquake prone buildings

After extensive lobbying efforts and a partnership between councils across New Zealand and  Local Government New Zealand, earthquake-prone buildings have been granted an additional 4 years to be remediated or demolished.

In Feilding alone, “12 buildings have been strengthened with another 7 in the pipeline, but it’s clear that under the previous timeline, the town centre’s of many New Zealand towns would have been destroyed by legislation and policy not because of an earthquake,” Deputy Mayor Ford states. “The timeline was unattainable and not economically viable in a low rent community like Feilding which hosts so many earthquake prone buildings.”

Between Deputy Mayor Ford and Mayor Worboys, the Manawatū District Council has led the campaign nationally with proposals focused on reducing the risk to human life coupled with low cost, pragmatic solutions and realistic timeframes. It’s hoped that under the review of the building code, which was previously scheduled for 2027, now brought forward to start immediately, that some of these suggestions might be included.

The review will be broad and extensive covering everything from which buildings, re-evaluation of risk, review of priority thoroughfares, timeframes, appropriate interventions, regulatory aspects, heritage, supporting housing and urban growth, alternative methods of risk mitigation and financing to name a few.  Having the review brought forward was a much-needed win for communities and building owners.

One of the proposal points presented examined building facades. While the façade of a building is often the character that defines it, the façade can also be the most dangerous as it is at high risk of falling.  “For buildings that have verandah’s, a focus on strengthening the verandah means that if the façade were to fall, the reinforced verandah would catch the façade and mitigate the risk of it falling onto the footpath”, Ford explains.  The terms of reference for the building code is to be agreed in cabinet in May.

Under the previous timeline, building owners were hesitant to start investing in the work as it was perceived that if the work was not complete the building would be condemned, and the money spent would be wasted.  The review and time reprieve will hopefully provide a viable and affordable way forward, providing hope to the building owners who to date have been overwhelmed by the problem.