Quake building bill hard on provinces

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014

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Rural and provincial centres will face further decline under proposed legislation changes to seismic strengthening of earthquake-prone buildings, a Joint Southern Councils draft submission document says.

The Central Otago District Council will consider today its involvement and support for the submission on the Building (Earthquake Prone Buildings) Amendment Bill currently before a select committee.

Last year, 13 Southland and Otago councils made a joint submission to an earthquake-prone buildings discussion document circulated by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Following the consultation, an amendment was drafted and is open for submission.

The Joint Southern Councils submission, while in support of improving the earthquake-prone building system, criticises the bill as "inflexible" and lacking detail with "detrimental" impacts on rural, provincial, and in cases metropolitan, communities.

Many communities across Otago, Southland and Westland will have less ability to absorb the social and economic costs that will flow from the proposed bill, the submission says.

Communities struggle with demographic challenges such as ageing and declining populations, withdrawal and change to government services, the challenge of maintaining large and in many cases ageing infrastructure and changes to government funding.

The communities are also characterised by a greater proportion of pre-1976 buildings (56 per cent of building stock compared with 35 per cent nationwide) and rural buildings compared with the rest of New Zealand, and collected on average a lower level of rents, the submission says.

"Many property owners [particularly buildings which are underused and uneconomic] will be unable to recover the cost of strengthening from increased rentals. We believe our building owners have less ability to recoup seismic strengthening costs through increased rentals.

"Where there is insufficient rental return on rebuilding costs to justify redevelopment, tenants will simply move on, leaving a heightened risk of demolition and non-replacement of buildings. We consider this will lead to the further decline of rural and provincial centres," the submission says.

The councils were "cautious" about a "one-size-fits-all" approach, which creates a situation where councils "will not have flexibility to respond, prioritise and best manage earthquake-prone buildings in the most cost effective manner".

The Joint Southern Council has requested the select committee also consider a verbal submission.

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Waitaki District Council policy and communications manager Fraser Liggett said other councils were expected to sign the submission off over the next fortnight.

 

- The Southland Times

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