Mayor defends quake report

Timaru mayor Janie Annear says the estimated costs of proposed earthquake-prone building regulations in a report were "conservative", but one of her councillors disagrees.

Mrs Annear's comments come after Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson criticised 10 southern councils for "scaremongering" over the proposals.

The southern councils released a report suggesting the collective costs of assessing and strengthening earthquake-prone buildings from Timaru south could be around $1.8 billion, with more than 7440 properties requiring demolition or strengthening.

Mrs Annear said the figures were based on a desktop Quotable Value assessment of potentially affected buildings, with an average cost for strengthening of $450 per square metre. Quotable Value is the Government-owned land valuer that provides information for rating.

"If anything, the estimates were on the conservative side," she said.

Mrs Annear said the councils did not have much time to respond to the discussion document, released in December.

The document used the Royal Commission's recommendations that local authorities be given five years to undertake seismic capacity assessment of buildings. Owners would then have 10 years to strengthen or demolish any buildings that fall below 33 per cent of the strength required for new buildings.

Cr Steve Earnshaw said yesterday he agreed with Mr Williamson's concerns about scaremongering.

"Whilst there are genuine concerns around the cost and affordability of earthquake strengthening, the report commissioned by the southern councils was extremely biased and tended to inflate the costs and downplay the benefits of strengthening," he said.

However, he acknowledged that some types of buildings, such as low-use farm buildings, would have to be exempted from the regulations.

Mrs Annear said the report was produced after South Canterbury mayors and chief executives decided to collaborate on a study compiled by the Otago mayoral forum.

"Rather than punching at fog, we shared our resources and tried to shine a light on the likely costs. It was always going to be an imperfect science," she said.

Timaru's district councillors will discuss the council's separate submission at their next committee meeting.

"There needs to be a balance between what is achievable and what is affordable," Mrs Annear said.

She supported moves for a publicly available register of earthquake-prone buildings.

Submissions on the Government's discussion document close on March 8.

The Timaru Herald