New quake reviews no great shakes

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 12/04/2014

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Additional earthquake strengthening requirements will not be as expensive as initially feared, the Government has reassured councils.

Last month the Taranaki Daily News revealed the Government was moving to push councils to assess hundreds more buildings that could be earthquake-prone.

In New Plymouth, it was feared the extra assessments could cost as much as $500,000 and become another burden to ratepayers.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill proposed councils would have to do a preliminary assessment on all non-residential and multi-storey residential buildings built before mid-2005 to see if they complied with the New Building Standard.

The New Plymouth District Council, which currently assesses buildings built before 1976, estimated this would cost ratepayers an extra $500,000 if the added 450 assessments had to be to the same level as the ones they were currently doing.

Despite having to submit on the bill, councils across New Zealand do not know what those new assessments will entail as the methodology has not been set.

However, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has this week revealed to the Daily News the assessments of buildings built post-1976 may not require an engineer.

Adrian Regnault, the ministry's building system performance general manager, said it was likely a tiered approach would be adopted.

"We know that the vast majority of buildings built from 1976 onwards are not earthquake-prone, because they were designed to standards introduced that year," he said.

"So we anticipate that in the vast majority of these cases, councils will - based on the building's age - simply assess them as being not earthquake-prone and then enter this on to the register. These decisions could be made without getting engineering advice.

"This would mean the New Plymouth District Council is unlikely to incur significant costs when assessing post-1976 buildings," he said.

Mary-Anne Priest, council head of customer and regulatory services, said this was "excellent news".

Although she wouldn't celebrate until it was set in stone, she said the NPDC would be able to do the assessments without an engineer.

"This is much better than the $500,000 scenario. We really hope this will be the case," she said.

Regnault said the exception to the simple assessment for post-1976 buildings would occur if a council had information to suggest there were design flaws in the buildings.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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