Towns suffer quake dilemma

South Taranaki towns could suffer a similar fate to New Plymouth should tougher requirements for earthquake assessments be passed into law.

In yesterday's Taranaki Daily News, real estate agent John Christiansen said the city would be left "in ruins" if building owners had to adhere to requirements outlined in the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Bill.

The bill, if passed, will require assessments to be completed on all buildings constructed before mid-2005. Previously 1976 was the cut-off.

Stratford District Council regulatory manager Pat Moore said the legislation would have a significant impact on small-town New Zealand.

"For a town like us, it would be the end," he said.

Mr Moore said the proposed changes would affect all of the town's 170 commercial buildings, bar a few built after 2005.

Only six buildings in the town had been assessed to date.

These were carried out in line with council policy requiring earthquake assessments to be done when any building upgrades take place.

"That's how it stands at the moment, until the rules change," Mr Moore said.

He said the estimated cost of any assessments would be upwards of $250,000.

Mr Moore said the economic impact was already being felt in Stratford, with many of its mainstreet shops empty.

Also, potential business owners were put off by the costs of building assessments and any required remedial work.

South Taranaki District Council officials had similar concerns.

Building services manager Andre Phillips said the proposed changes would certainly be felt in the district.

"The Government's earthquake prone buildings legislation will result in significant changes for older buildings in our district, which will affect our town centres and the way that we use them for decades to come," he said.

Mr Phillips said up to about 400 buildings would need assessment under the proposed legislation, at an approximate cost of about $700,000.

Any legislative changes would be incorporated into a planning project under way regarding the Hawera town centre re-development.

"Such a development plan and related actions will provide improved confidence for building owners to strengthen and re-develop their buildings," he said.

Taranaki Daily News