Call for warning stickers on buildings

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 24/04/2014

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Visible warning stickers should be placed on all earthquake-prone buildings, the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) says.

Last week the board voted to make the request in its submission on the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill.

The bill, which has passed its first reading, amends the 2004 Building Act and incorporates some of the recommendations of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission.

A copy of the submission provided to The Press showed the CDHB supported giving territorial authorities five years to complete seismic assessments of all non-residential buildings and all multi-unit residential buildings, as well as the establishment of a national register recording the results of the assessments.

It added four recommendations, including asking Parliament to consider making it mandatory for publicly-accessible buildings to be clearly identified if they were quake-prone.

Board member Aaron Keown said he argued for quake-prone buildings to be made known to the public because they "had a right to know the status of any building they may choose to enter".

He believed the stickers would encourage landlords to speed up strengthening programmes as quake-prone buildings would become less popular.

"Under the current proposal, there would be a registration of earthquake-prone buildings held on a database but the public would not be immediately aware of what is earthquake-prone or not," Keown said.

About 9500 buildings in Christchurch would need to be assessed if the bill was passed. Some had already undergone detailed engineering evaluations, but Christchurch City Council officials estimated about 22 per cent (2090) were quake-prone, with about 5800 buildings still needing to be assessed.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman said the Ministry supported the adoption of earthquake-rating systems "where they provide useful information to the public about a building".

"These projects are however generally funded by those businesses or building owners that want to take part," the spokeswoman said.

CDHB member Jo Kane said she had wanted more information about the "consequences" of using warning stickers on buildings.

"I think it's just kind of a scare tactic. I'm not sure it wouldn't give people any more comfort," she said.

Kane disagreed with the bill's proposal to remove the requirement for building owners to improve access for people with disabilities while strengthening work was being carried out - a proposal the CDHB submission said was "inconsistent with the Humans Rights Act".

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"What a cop-out for the whole of New Zealand. Of course it's always about money, but it should be about people," she said.

- The Press

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