Appeal on building strengthening quashed
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
The Christchurch City Council did not have the power to ask property owners to strengthen existing buildings up to 67 per cent of the national building standard, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
After the September 2010 earthquake, the council decided on a policy that enabled it to require building owners to strengthen existing buildings, and it was adopted at an extraordinary meeting on September 10, 2010.
The Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) brought judicial review proceedings questioning the lawfulness of the policy.
In February this year, Justice Graham Panckhurst ruled in the High Court that the council could not require owners to take steps to strengthen a building, and parts of the policy were struck out.
Justice Panckhurst's decision was not appealed by the council, but the University of Canterbury and building owner Oxford Body Corporate challenged it.
The Court of Appeal's decision, released today, agreed with Justice Panckhurst's ruling and dismissed the appeal.
ICNZ was concerned the new policy would increase the costs of quake repairs for building owners who would, in turn, seek to claim the cost of those repairs from their insurers.
If a 67 per cent requirement was to be imposed, the estimated increase to the repair bill of insurers could run into hundreds of millions of dollars, ICNZ said.
The Court of Appeal said the main question was whether the Building Act gave local authorities the power to require strengthening work.
''If it did, the policy was lawful. If not, it was unlawful,'' the decision said.
The university submitted that section 124 of the act could be interpreted as empowering a local authority to issue a written notice in relation to a building that was dangerous.
The court concluded that the council was not given the power to require work to a higher standard than 34 per cent of the national building standard.
''We agree with the decision of [Justice Panckhurst] on the primary issue and will dismiss the appeal.''
ICNZ also cross-appealed the following declaration, which was granted by the court: ''The Christchurch City Council in issuing a notice in respect of an earthquake-prone building under section 124 ... can require a building owner to carry out work on a building to reduce or remove specific vulnerabilities capable of causing injury, death or property damage.''
The court agreed with the cross-appeal and quashed the declaration, saying it was confusing and ''quite possibly added nothing''.
The university will not comment on the decision at this stage, and the council has not responded to The Press.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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