Building rules 'will ruin city'

Financial ruin will strike business owners if the changes surrounding earthquake-prone buildings come into force, a top Taranaki realtor has said.

John Christiansen, the principal officer of Harcourts New Plymouth said the town centre of New Plymouth will be in ruins if the Government continues to tighten the vice that has been closing around building owners.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill, which proposes the stringent new rules, has been through Parliament's select committee this month.

If passed, it will mean the New Plymouth District Council will have to shift from assessing buildings built before 1976, to assessing all buildings built before mid 2005.

This would take the total number of New Plymouth buildings affected to about 840.

For the government to force the council to assess the extra 450 buildings built between 1976 and 2005 was "ridiculous", Mr Christiansen said.

The proposed changes to the buildings act were "absolute overkill."

"We have a draconian Government filled with politicians trying to appease the grief people felt over the Christchurch earthquake," he said.

Government officials have touted the bill as a system which will "strike a better balance between protecting people from harm in an earthquake and managing the costs of strengthening or removing earthquake prone buildings."

The bill is the result of a comprehensive review undertaken by the Government, and is broadly in line with the recommendations on the Canterbury Earthquake Commission's final report.

However, Mr Christiansen said if every building made before mid 2005 had to be assessed, then the real estate market would suffer greatly.

"It will definitely hamper sales and the leasing of properties. The value of buildings is going to plummet and there will be considerable financial issues faced by every single building owner," he said.

"It's crazy, it's just ridiculous. The CBD will end up looking like someone who has had their teeth knocked out."

Mr Christiansen, who owns commercial property in the New Plymouth CBD, said one of his buildings had been assessed as earthquake-prone.

"It's 100 years old and it hasn't got a crack or a blemish on it."

The frustrating changes don't end at the number of buildings set to be assessed, he said.

Councils across the country will be given five years to make the preliminary assessments, and building owners will then be given 15 years to complete the necessary work to bring the building up to 34 per cent of the New Building Standard.

That timeframe would put owners under immense pressure and would drive them to abandon buildings, Mr Christiansen said.

"It's a financial disaster waiting to happen. There will be absolutely no return on the money that has to be invested and most of the business owners will struggle.

"They are not going to mortgage their homes and their lifestyles to prop up a building they have never had a problem with," he said.

Taranaki Daily News