27 Feb 2013

Quake timeline comments over-reaction - minister

10:26 pm on 27 February 2013

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson says those objecting to proposed timeframe to strengthen earthquake-prone buildings are over-reacting.

The Government is considering requiring owners to assess and strengthen buildings within 15 years, raising fears that many buildings in provincial areas will have to be demolished.

Mr Williamson told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Wednesday the discussion document is simply asking how much should buildings have to be strengthened and under what timeframe.

He said in many cases, it is likely to mean heavy unreinforced masonry would be replaced with lighter material but major structural work would not be needed.

Mr Williamson said Christchurch showed mostly parapets and facades failed and would need replacing.

He said 250 submissions have been made so far and many more are expected before the deadline of 8 March.

Timeline 'too short'

The Government is being warned that the proposed timeframe to assess and strengthen earthquake-prone buildings is too short and could result in mass demolition of heritage buildings.

Otorohanga district Mayor Dale Williams fears his town could be gutted if the change is implemented. He said 90% of the business district is unlikely to pass the threshold of 33% of the new building standard.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the proposal could spell economic ruin for his and other provinces unless the timeframe is extended.

Photographer Laurence Aberhart said the conservation of the character of New Zealand buildings should be as important as making them safe for people to live and work in.

Mr Aberhart saidthe Masonic Lodge in Cromwell is an example of a building that owners who can ill afford it, are being put under pressure to maintain their buildings.

He told Morning Report that some buildings are already being demolished as owners, who can see the looming changes, are knocking their buildings down rather than spend money strengthening them.