$52.5m bill to make buildings quake-safe

JESSICA MADDOCK
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2013

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An estimated 260 buildings in the Central Otago district will have to be earthquake strengthened at a cost of nearly $52.5 million, if the Government's proposals for dealing with earthquake-prone buildings go ahead.

Council chief executive Phil Melhopt told yesterday's Vincent Community Board meeting the proposals, if adopted, would have a huge economic impact on the district's businesses and its wider community.

An initial, desktop analysis estimated 1600 of the district's buildings would need to be assessed to determine whether they were earthquake prone.

That included all non-residential properties and any residential building that was multi-unit and multi-storey.

The assessment was estimated to cost $2 million and some elected representatives were concerned it was a bill the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was proposing councils picked up.

"This is the same Government that's telling us to keep rates down - brilliant," said board member Tim Cadogan.

The council would have five years from the legislation taking effect to carry out the assessments.

Of the 1600 buildings examined, it was predicted about 260 would require strengthening.

That equated to 131,000 square metres, with the cost of earthquake strengthening about $400 per square metre.

Work on buildings which required strengthening, or demolition of the building, would need to be completed within 15 years of the legislation being introduced.

There was concern that would force business people to leave the district, Mr Melhopt said.

The council would lodge a submission on the proposals, as well as being part of a submission from all southern local authorities.

"We have really got to make our point on this to the Government. We think the lower South Island is disproportionately affected."

Mr Melhopt said the council needed to consider whether the building assessments should be funded by the building owner or ratepayers, and the council's infrastructure services manager, Jon Kingsford, said there was a risk to the council if it was also made responsible for carrying out the assessments.

The council would seek an exemption for some buildings, such as community halls, Mr Melhopt said.

The deadline for submissions was March 8.

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