'We owe our residents a safe city'

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 17:00 07/12/2012

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Councillors have decided to err on the side of caution and keep closed any council-owned buildings that are below 34 per cent of the New Building Standard (NBS).

Since the quakes any council-owned building assessed as being below 34 per cent of the New Building Standard (NBS) has been immediately closed to the public because of the risk posed from another big shake.

With the frequency and size of aftershocks diminishing council staff had recommended amending that policy so that buildings below the 34 per cent threshold could be occupied if engineers could satisfy the council they posed no danger to the public.

But Mayor Bob Parker said yesterday he could not support changing the occupancy rules because too many lives had been lost in February last year in buildings that engineers had thought were safe.

"We owe our residents a safe city. I need to know what I'm supporting is going to give people a safe city and I'm not over the line yet,'' Parker said.

Cr Tim Carter also said he could not support the proposed change as he believed the city council needed to lead by example and put safety first.

"As a building owner we need to ensure that when people go into our facilities they have the confidence of safety,'' Carter said.

Cr Aaron Keown also spoke against the change saying he never wanted to look a grieving family in the eye and have to explain to them why the council had opened a building that subsequently failed when they knew it was not up to code.

"We don't need them (the buildings) open so desperately,'' Keown said.

Cr Barry Corbett argued for amending the rules, saying he doubted whether there was anywhere in the city where people could be guaranteed of their safety. He said the council needed to trust in the advice of its engineers and accept their recommendations on whether a building was safe to be occupied.

Cr Jamie Gough said he believed the benefits of re-opening some of the closed facilities outweighed the risks and he was comfortable with the policy change recommended by staff.

"I think it makes sense and I think this trade-off is a pragmatic one.''

Councillors voted seven to four against the change.

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