20 May 2015

Concern plan could 'trample' property rights

9:27 am on 20 May 2015

The Property Council is welcoming proposed changes to the Building Act, but it wants clarity around any "state of emergency" for the sake of private property owners.

Rescuers stand at the smoking ruins of the CTV building.

Rescuers stand at the smoking ruins of the CTV building after the devastating February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch. Photo: Marty Melville / AFP

The Government says the changes aim to ensure more robust systems are in place in case of an emergency, such as a major earthquake.

Nick Smith during caucas run 5/5/15

Nick Smith Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

They include the use of emergency powers, assessment of buildings and the power to demolish buildings without building or resource consent.

In the latter scenario, authorities would not need the owner's permission or building consent to demolish and the owners would bear the cost.

Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend said that would have an impact on private property rights.

"There would need to be a very clear state of emergency declared," he said.

"If there wasn't such a state of emergency declared then we'd be pretty concerned about governmental agency purporting to trample on the rights of individual owners."

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith told Morning Report that, during the Canterbury earthquakes, these powers were not needed for most stand-alone residential houses.

"This is about the immediate risk. So there may have been a situation of a multi-storey apartment building [in] which people live, that it may need to be demolished for the building next door to be able to be accessed," he said.

"But in the vast majority of stand-alone residential houses, these sorts of powers were not used and those issues were able to be resolved over a longer period."

He said the changes would also establish clear appeal rights for building owners.

Public submissions close on 25 June.

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