Quake risk could alter streetscape

Palmerston North is bracing itself for a report on building earthquake risks that could change the face of the city.

The city council is about 80 per cent of the way through a systematic review of buildings erected before 1974, and expects to have results by the end of February.

The process mirrors that being carried out in Feilding, where one in four buildings have been deemed earthquake-prone, and is similar to work going on around New Zealand following the Christchurch quake in February.

Palmerston North City Council head of building services Chris Henry said there were 120 buildings on the list, including about one-eighth of the central city's building stock, which were deemed to have potential for failure in a moderate earthquake.

Most were built with unreinforced masonry.

The building owners were told about the survey not long after the September 2010 earthquake in Christchurch.

Council-contracted structural engineers were carrying out further assessments, and, although monthly updates were provided, it would be two months before all of the information was available.

Owners would have a choice of whether to accept the council's verdict and carry out remedial work or get their own engineering report.

"We will be holding a meeting for property owners in late February, and will start consultation.

"Then the owners will be required to start making decisions about strengthening work."

Mr Henry said final reports on the reasons for building collapses in Christchurch would also be available then to help decide which buildings had a future.

In the mean time, the city council is checking its own buildings, 18 of which are multi-storey and in need of checks on how their stairwells would perform in a shake.

Property manager John Brenkley said a consultant engineer was working through the list on a preliminary assessment that would be followed up with detailed reports where necessary.

"It could be an expensive business. The preliminary assessments could cost up to $1500 each, but we could be paying up to $10,000 per building just to find out what work needs to be done," he said.

There could be difficult decisions to make, balancing the desire to protect heritage buildings against the cost of remedial work, Mr Brenkley said.

Chief executive Paddy Clifford said considering the future of the city's buildings would be an extensive task, once all of the information was available.

Manawatu Standard