7 Aug 2013

Govt grants extension for quake strengthening

10:34 pm on 7 August 2013

Owners of earthquake-prone buildings have been given an extra five years to strengthen them, while some with historic buildings will get an extra 10 years.

The Government released its new earthquake-prone building policy on Wednesday.

Maurice Williamson.

Maurice Williamson. Photo: NATIONAL PARTY

Local councils will still have to complete assessments of buildings of multi-storey residential and multi-unit non-residential buildings within five years.

Building owners will then have 15 years, instead of 10, to either demolish the buildings or bring them up to 34% of the new building standard.

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson said the policy strikes a balance between protecting people from harm in an earthquake and managing the costs. He said potential financial compensation for building owners is still being considered.

Owners of some historic quake-prone buildings will have up to 25 years to get them fixed or demolished. Mr Williamson said the Government does not want them pulled to the ground.

The Property Council says it's impressed with the new policy, but the husband of a woman who died in the CTV building says it does nothing for public safety.

Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend said building owners would be relieved with the extra five years and with the Government agreeing to look at financial incentives to carry out the work.

The head of the Historic Places Trust, Bruce Chapman, said more time would also give owners the chance to plan the work and explore funding options.

Business New Zealand criticised the new policy, saying it is a one size fits all solution. Chief executive Phil O'Reilly said many buildings would have to be strengthened in a relatively tight timeframe which could lead to some losing value or being demolished for no good reason.

Maan Alkaisi, whose wife was one of 115 people who died in the CTV building in the February 2011 earthquake, said the Government has not learned from Christchurch's experience and has put cost ahead of safety.

"The Royal Commission recommendation is very clear what to do with the buildings, so I'm really surprised with the timeline they put with the strengthening they're asking for. They're already well below what the Royal Commission has asked for."

Mr Alkaisi said he would like signs to be posted on the front of all quake-prone buildings so the public knows which buildings are potentially unsafe.

Maurice Williamson said he would announce a new policy on buildings with non-ductile columns, like the CTV building had, next week.