Building assessment bill may hit $500,000

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014

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New Plymouth ratepayers may have to stump up half a million dollars as the Government moves to push councils to assess hundreds more buildings that could be earthquake-prone.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill has been through Parliament's select committee this month, leaving council's less than five weeks to make a submission about the imminent changes.

If passed, the bill will mean councils will have to do a preliminary assessment on all non-residential, and multi-storey residential buildings built before mid 2005, to see if they comply with the New Building Standard.

At present the New Plymouth District Council only assesses buildings built before 1976.

Three hundred and ninety buildings have been identified as needing an assessment and 342 of the assessments have been done, costing ratepayers $330,000.

If the proposed changes go ahead then the NPDC may have to assess an extra 350-450 buildings in New Plymouth, Waitara and Inglewood. The mandatory assessment of the extra buildings could cost the council up to $500,000, depending on what method of assessment the legislation demands.

That money will come from rates, the council's boss of customer and regulatory services, Mary-Anne Priest said.

However, the real and long lasting effects would be on building owners and the CBDs, she said.

While the council pays for the preliminary assessment, if its contractors deem the building likely to be earthquake-prone then building owners must pay for a detailed seismic assessment.

These assessments can cost up to $25,000 per building and of the 172 buildings already identified as potential hazards, only 31 have had the follow-up assessment.

Under the new laws there could be hundreds of other buildings in Taranaki that require the same costly assessments.

"This is going to have a significant impact on our district and there could be significant costs for our building owners," Mrs Priest said. "What happens if they can't afford it?"

The face of CBD's in Taranaki towns could change drastically, she said. ‘This could lead to an increase in the abandonment or demolition of buildings."

At the next regulatory meeting on April 10, elected councillors will discuss the submission the council is likely to make to Parliament. Local Government New Zealand will make a submission for all councils but it is likely the NPDC will make its own submission to Parliament.

The assessment of the extra 350-450 buildings would cost each ratepayer about $19. Split between the 26,500 rateable properties in the New Plymouth District over five years the average rates bill would increase by 0.2 per cent.

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NEW PLYMOUTH DISTRICT — ON SHAKY GROUND

So far:

390 buildings needed assessing

342 have been completed

At a cost of $330,000

Of the 342, 172 are likely to be earthquake-prone

31 of the 172 have since had a detailed assessment

Costing building owners up to $25,000 eac

Of those 31 buildings, 13 confirmed earthquake-prone

8 buildings with strengthening under way/completed

2 buildings removed/demolished

2 more scheduled to be removed/demolished

To come?

If the new legislation passes:

An extra 350-450 extra buildings affected

Those assessments could cost NPDC up to $500,000

Council would have 5 years for assessments

Owners would have 15 years to complete the work

* Data from New Plymouth District Council 

- Taranaki Daily News

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