Concerns over building regulation changes

Waitaki CEO Michael Ross
Waitaki CEO Michael Ross

Proposed changes to the building regulations could be like an "earthquake without having an earthquake" for many smaller councils, Waitaki District Council chief executive Michael Ross says.

In response to the royal commission hearings into the Christchurch earthquake, Building and Housing Minister Maurice Williamson proposed councils should direct that all earthquake-prone buildings need to be strengthened, or demolished, within 15 years of new laws being introduced.

The Mackenzie, Waimate and Waitaki district councils keep "passive" lists.

That meant buildings were listed only if the owner applied for a "change of use", and the building did not meet 33 per cent of the code after the assessment.

Mr Ross said there were only "two or three" buildings on its list of earthquake-prone buildings.

"However, we are a town with a lot of old, heritage buildings, and the reality is that many of them could be susceptible," he said.

"The implications behind the changes are quite major.

"For smaller councils, it could be like an earthquake without having an earthquake."

The Oamaru court building was closed last year after it was found to meet less than 15 per cent of the code, while Kurow's only bank had to be closed in June.

Mr Ross said the council decided to wait for the Government's recommendations before changing its policy.

"A lot of the affected buildings aren't economic now and, if you forced the owners to upgrade, the only option might be for them to walk away."

Waimate District Council planning and regulatory manager Brent Donaldson said a "desktop assessment" suggested the district could have "between 50 and 100" earthquake-prone buildings.

Mackenzie District Council planning manager Nathan Hole had estimated similar numbers.

The Timaru Herald