Council faces questioning over earthquake building policy

7:26 pm on 14 November 2011

Christchurch City Council has faced questions over whether its policy for earthquake-prone buildings amounted to playing Russian Roulette with its citizens.

The questions came during a sitting of the Royal Commission investigating the Canterbury earthquakes.

Christchurch City Council was asked about a submission from architect Sir Miles Warren on the council's review of its earthquake-prone buildings policy in 2006.

The submission said many of the older style brick and stone building would collapse in an earthquake, and the 35-year programme to upgrade them was like playing "Russian Roulette" with its citizens.

The content of the Warren submission was raised by a lawyer representing some of the families of those who died in the earthquake of 22 February.

Christchurch City Council's general manager of regulation and democracy services, Peter Mitchell, told the hearing the council had also received an opposing submission and took all views into consideration in the review.

Councils relate their experiences

Earlier, the Royal Commission heard from two councils that have previously seen significant earthquake damage: Gisborne and Napier.

Gisborne District Council building services manager Ian Petty recalled that Gisborne has been hit by three significant earthquakes since 1932 and said that means people there accept tougher regulations.

After the 2007 earthquake, the council required existing buildings to meet 67% of the standard of new buildings.

Napier City Council chief executive Neil Taylor said it was assumed in Napier that the few buildings which survived the 1931 earthquake, and those built afterwards, were very strong.

However, a recent study found half of 68 buildings assessed were below the required earthquake strength standard.