New earthquake legislation could see more yellow-stickered buildings in Wellington

Statistics House was one of several buildings on Wellington's waterfront that that suffered damaged in the November 14 ...
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Statistics House was one of several buildings on Wellington's waterfront that that suffered damaged in the November 14 earthquake.

Wellington City Council is proposing a raft of changes to the legislation that governs earthquake-prone buildings, which could see more capital buildings slapped with a yellow sticker, according to one councillor.

From July 2017, the Government's Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 will introduce a risk-based framework to enforce national timeframes and procedures for addressing earthquake-prone buildings.

It will clarify the definition of, and criteria for, earthquake-prone buildings and provide for a national register.

The BNZ Harbour Quays building on Wellington's waterfront is likely to be closed for a while after the November 14 quake.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

The BNZ Harbour Quays building on Wellington's waterfront is likely to be closed for a while after the November 14 quake.

It will also give councils the discretion to halve the timeframe for either strengthening or demolishing quake-prone buildings. In Wellington, most must be remediated within 15 years.

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The city council has drafted some feedback on the amendment, which it will debate at a meeting on Thursday. 

Councillor Iona Pannett, chairwoman of the City Strategy Committee, did not rule out adding more quake-prone buildings ...
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Councillor Iona Pannett, chairwoman of the City Strategy Committee, did not rule out adding more quake-prone buildings to the council’s list.

The council's submission says it wants to see the inclusion of a ground assessment, buildings with facades and more information on costs for building owners.

Councillor Iona Pannett​, chairwoman of the City Strategy Committee, said the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura quake on November 14 showed that building damage in Wellington could be down to ground condition, rather than construction.

"The fact that a number of buildings on the waterfront did not work well shows us that prone ground needs to be looked at, and in turn, those buildings could be added."

Damage at Wellington's CentrePort after the November 14 earthquake.
CENTREPORT/SUPPLIED

Damage at Wellington's CentrePort after the November 14 earthquake.

Several Waterfront buildings were damaged in the quake, including the Greater Wellington Regional Council's offices at Shed 39, the BNZ Harbour Quays building - which is likely to be closed for months - and Statistics House, where a floor partially collapsed prompting a Government investigation into its earthquake performance.

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But Pannett pointed out that Wellington was still ahead of the game when it came to assessing quake-prone buildings.

"It [the legislation] won't have a big impact on Wellington because we started assessments about ten years ago, but it could allow us to potentially identify more buildings."

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said he did not think the council's current list of quake-prone buildings would change as a result of the amended legislation.

He intended to use the new powers to compel building owners to conduct structural engineers checks following earthquakes.

"Right now, the responsibility lies solely with the building owner. That's not good enough and I'm pleased to the see the Government giving councils more powers to make sure these checks are done."

 - Stuff

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