Councils seek aid for vulnerable buildings

TASMAN MAYOR: Richard Kempthorne.
TASMAN MAYOR: Richard Kempthorne.

Relief for owners of earthquake-prone buildings could be pursued by local authorities including the Nelson and Tasman councils.

Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne has been given the mandate from the Tasman District Council to support a remit for Local Government New Zealand to advocate that central government provide more support for strengthening earthquake-prone buildings.

Nelson City Council will decide later this month whether to back the remit.

Led by the Wellington council, it will be discussed and voted on at the Local Government NZ annual meeting as part of its national conference in Nelson later this month.

Wellington City Council's resilience building manager Neville Brown worked on the remit and said Wellington so far had 700 earthquake-prone buildings.

"It is our view, and it has been our view for some time, that the government needs to play a proactive part in strengthening those buildings because we are also learning it is much better to be spending in advance of an event to future-proof buildings rather than what we are seeing in Christchurch," he said.

The government is working on new legislation on earthquake-prone buildings and the report from Wellington City Council calls for new legislation to coincide with removing barriers to strengthening buildings, namely the cost.

He said smaller communities were struggling with the costs as they did not always have a ready supply of tenants and lower rent income to support the cost of strengthening.

In Nelson, 35 buildings have so far been deemed earthquake prone including nine owned by the council.

One suggestion is to make earthquake strengthening tax deductible because the cost can be so high.

"We think that is something tangible that the government could do to help building owners across New Zealand," he said.

"That would give business owners in particular who own and manage building some relief from the cost."

The remit will be voted on at the conference, but Brown said there was support from councils across the country.

Once passed, the remit would become an issue for Local Government NZ to pursue on behalf of all councils and it would become a matter of negotiation and discussion between them and the government

"It won't be a quick fix because the government will need time to consider their position, but at least we have a line in the sand," Brown said.

The Nelson Mail