New quake rules could cost billions

TERRI RUSSELL
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2013

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Southern communities could be asked to fork out close to $2 billion if a proposal to tighten earthquake rules is given the green light, Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno says.

Eleven South Island councils, including three in Southland, are preparing a submission in response to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's proposal to tighten earthquake rules. The Government proposal was released for consultation in December.

Mrs Cardno said if given the go-ahead, it would be one of the biggest issues to face councils.

A document circulated among the 11 South Island councils, written by Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, says it will cost southern communities about $1.8b in the 15-year timeframe set by the ministry, she said. "It would be an awful burden to the southern district and smaller communities.

"I don't know how we could cope," she said.

More than 20,000 rural and urban buildings south of and including Timaru would need earthquake assessments, and more than 7000 would need to be demolished or strengthened, she said.

She questioned the need for such a massive investment.

"We've been through some big earthquakes and they're still all standing."

Implementing the proposed scheme would cost $50m, and five-year seismic assessments could reach $30m, Mrs Cardno said.

Minister for Building and Construction Maurice Williamson said he did not know how much it would cost southern communities because a final policy was still being decided.

"We're canvassing the criteria.

"We want people to tell us where that balance lies," he said.

Mr Williamson hit back at comments made by Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan who told Radio New Zealand yesterday that shearing sheds and hay barns would be assessed under the proposal, which would kill rural communities.

It was a form of scaremongering that was completely the opposite to the proposal, he said.

Buildings would be assessed on safety risk and low-use or low-traffic buildings could be exempted, Mr Williamson said.

The 11 southern councils are Dunedin City Council, Invercargill City Council, Central Otago District Council, Clutha District Council, Gore District Council, Mackenzie District Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Southland District Council, Timaru District Council, Waimate District Council and Waitaki District Council.

A Dunedin City Council spokesman said it expected to release a draft submission, representative of all the councils, tomorrow. A final joint submission is expected to be released on March 6.

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