Council may reconsider publicising quake risk

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013
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District councillors might consider whether information on Timaru's earthquake-prone buildings should be more easily available.

The council has twice refused to issue its list of such buildings to The Herald, with the details being provided only after requests under the Official Information Act.

But councils may be forced to provide information under proposals being considered. A consultation document by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment proposes a publicly accessible register to be maintained by the ministry.

Timaru District Deputy Mayor Richard Lyon believes it is a matter the council could discuss.

"There was a view years ago about mentioning a building and [that] having huge implications for the building owner.

"I think as a society we have moved on from that after Christchurch. We now want to know. That will be the view [of councillors], I am sure.

"I think it is timely. We should talk again and discuss the reality of that list being made public."

In spite of that, Mr Lyon said he personally did not believe the council should be actively taking steps to identify earthquake-prone properties at this stage.

"We are waiting for guidance [from the Government]. We don't want to be doing things twice," he said, referring to the fact the council did not want to be insisting on one set of rules now, when consultation on earthquake-prone buildings was still taking place.

"We are certainly not going to sit on our hands and have a dangerous city, a dangerous district. It is an emotional thing."

Asked if he thought the council would have any responsibility if it did nothing to identify quake-prone buildings now, and there was another earthquake, Mr Lyon considered the council would need to seek legal advice on that.

The list of earthquake-prone buildings supplied to The Herald this month contains three Stafford St buildings. In May last year there were 23 on the list, with 19 having been upgraded to at least the minimum seismic requirement. The present three, which were also on the earlier list, are 284 to 296, 306 and 293 Stafford St.

The largest building is occupied by Rebel Sport and several street-line shops. While the individual shops did not meet the 33 per cent criterion, the new Rebel Sports area was 100 per cent up to code. Engineers investigated the complex after the September 4 and February 22 earthquakes. No damage was found.

When the list was first made public eight months ago, Nigel Lundy, the owner of 306 Stafford St, the building occupied by Coffee Culture, said it was unhelpful, saying upgrading work had been done before Coffee Culture moved in. It had passed its building warrant of fitness and was completely up to code.

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- The Timaru Herald

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