Palmerston North building upgrades uncertain

The future of Palmerston North City Council-owned earthquake-prone buildings cannot be decided until regulations are made about how much strengthening they need.

Council property manager John Brenkley said since initial assessments identified six buildings that fell well below current standards; further work had been done to understand the weak spots.

But recommendations on whether to strengthen any or all of them could not be made until the council knew how good they would need to be made.

"We are waiting to find out what legislation is going to tell us about what percentage of the building code we would have to strengthen to," Mr Brenkley said.

"Once we know that, we can start putting a plan together and prioritising."

Council staff could not even begin getting prices for building upgrades until they knew whether the new rules meant buildings had to meet two-thirds or 100 per cent or some other portion of the latest building code standards.

"There would be quite a lot of price difference between the two," said Mr Brenkley.

The buildings that are at risk are Square Edge, the Keith St power station, Fitzherbert Park grandstand, Kelvin Grove crematorium, the former Rugby Museum building in Cuba St, and the Albert St depot workshops.

Mr Brenkley said more detailed assessment of the buildings showed they were not as bad as the original desktop assessments showed.

"We have been pleasantly surprised. They are not as bad as we thought. But they are still not into the pretty zone."

Mr Brenkley said once council staff knew what the goal was, some costings could be done, and councillors would be given all the information they needed to make choices about which buildings to upgrade.

"We need to start planning and budgeting, but at the moment we are just waiting," Mr Brenkley said.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is hosting a public meeting in Palmerston North on Thursday next week to explain the proposal that all non-residential, multi-unit and multi-storey buildings should have seismic assessments done within five years.

Owners would be required to strengthen or demolish buildings deemed earthquake-prone within 10 years of being identified.

Consultation on the proposal closes on March 8.

The public meeting will be held on February 14 at the Convention Centre.

Manawatu Standard