Quake checks put squeeze on ratepayers
Invercargill ratepayers will have to dig deep next year to help the Invercargill City Council pay for assessing the city's earthquake-prone buildings.
But Mayor Tim Shadbolt is worried costly restoration work could also force business owners out of earthquake-prone buildings in the central business district.
The council's regulatory services committee was told this week the Government had issued its policy to deal with earthquake-prone buildings and the council faced a "large and unbudgeted" bill next year.
Council environmental and planning services director Pamela Gare said the council would need to complete a seismic assessment of all pre-1976 non-residential buildings in the council's area within five years of changes to new legislation taking effect later this year.
A structural engineer would need to be contracted to survey the buildings and, while there had been no formal costings, the wage bill was expected to be high, she said.
The council knew this was coming and would now need to work out a business plan to figure out how to cover the costs of the assessments, she said.
The council did not know how many buildings were earthquake-prone in Invercargill, Gare said.
Options to pay for the assessments included increasing rates for everyone, increasing rates for everyone except residential property owners, increasing building consent fees with a proportion used for the assessments or targeted rates aimed at everyone who needed an assessment, Gare said.
"The bottom line is the council is responsible for paying for the assessments."
It would be up to owners to pay for any work needed to bring their buildings up to standards, she said.
Shadbolt said the policy would be a huge financial burden particularly on "old provincial councils".
Most of Invercargill's non-residential buildings were built before 1976.
Shadbolt said there was also a worry the cost of earthquake-strengthening a commercial building would have some business owners closing their doors, adding further financial pressure on the council.
"What if the owner gets told it will cost millions of dollars to get the building up to standard and thinks it is not worth the investment on the first floor shop and just walks?" he said.
"If the rates are not paid on the building, it goes back to the council and it has to pay for either the restoration or demolition of that building."
In a city like Invercargill that would add up to a huge financial burden, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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