Quake rules a worry for city

WILMA MCCORKINDALE IN DUNEDIN
Last updated 11:34 06/02/2013

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Dunedin is bracing itself for the impact of Government policy changes for the strengthening of earthquake prone buildings, Dunedin City Council chief executive Paul Orders says.

Mr Orders is one of dozens of South Island council managers attending a series of meetings on expected tightening of rules governing buildings compliance in the wake of the Canterbury earthquake.s

With many heritage buildings in Dunedin's CBD at stake, the issue is a major concern for the city.

"The policy changes the Government is promoting have profound potential implications for Dunedin and for much of the South Island actually," Mr Orders said.

Government proposals for a national approach to deal with earthquake-prone buildings are out for consultation.

They could see a requirement for buildings to be assessed within five years, and compliant or demolished within 15 years.

"Owners have, on average, 28 years to deal with them.

Mr Orders said some of Dunedin's buildings might already be vacant because owners could not afford earthquake work.

"We're doing work currently . . . At the heart of that [council] work is an assessment of the economic impact of the Government changes."

Once finalised, local authorities are looking at releasing a joint statement clarifying the impact of this initiative.

South Island authorities would seek easing of the framework for areas with less seismic risk, because of the cost to private and public building owners. "Even if you look purely at the costs of carrying out assessments for earthquake-prone building- mandatory assessments - across local businesses . . . it can be very significant, very significant, and it raises issues around how you deal with these costs both from a business perspective and a public organisation perspective."

Orders said there was a need to be careful of preparing a policy framework suitable for market, seismic, and economic conditions in Wellington which might be ill-suited for cities like Dunedin - a one-size-fits-all policy.

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