Questions over council powers raised at quake hearing

12:24 pm on 7 November 2011

The lawyer for the Royal Commission looking into the Canterbury earthquakes says the powers local authorities have in earthquake strengthening need to be clarified.

The commission began taking evidence on Monday about the rules for unreinforced masonry buildings and other earthquake prone buildings.

Forty of the 182 deaths in the February earthquake were caused by unreinforced masonry buildings.

The lawyer assisting the commission Stephen Mills QC outlined the main issues to be addressed during this phase of the investigation.

He says rules for earthquake strengthening of existing buildings are overseen by local authorities.

Mr Mills says most authorities believe they have no power to require existing buildings to be strengthened beyond 33% of the standard for new buildings.

He also noted that Wellington City Council is already getting resistance from building owners when it tries to enforce stricter rules.

Mr Mills says in this phase of the hearing the commission will also want to address the issue of whether there should be a greater level of national standards.