Who will pay for building rules?

No money has been set aside in the Timaru District Council's draft budget to cover the costs that upcoming changes to earthquake-prone building rules may bring.

The draft budget, approved on Tuesday, proposes a 3.81 per cent increase in the total rate take for the next financial year, largely off the back of major roading and water infrastructure upgrades.

However, the briefing notes mention the council has decided not to budget for upcoming changes to the Building Act.

Timaru mayor Damon Odey said it decided not to set aside any separate funds for proposed changes.

"We just don't know how much it will cost us, and what we will need to budget for," Mr Odey said.

"The way the legislation is progressing, it is unlikely we will see any change at least until after the election in September, and we don't know what will happen from there."

The Government's proposed changes to the Building Act will require all non-residential buildings to be seismically assessed within five years, and to meet 34 per cent of the current standard for new buildings within 15 years of being identified as earthquake-prone.

Submissions on the proposal to the local government select committee close on April 17, but it is unknown when the legislation will come into effect.

Mr Odey said the council had an annual contingency fund of about $500,000, which could be used to cover the costs.

Chief executive Peter Nixon said there had been some debate about whether to set aside some money for the changes, but the council did not want to "jump the gun".

"If we set our own rules, and employ extra engineers, it could turn out we don't need them, or worse, we need more of them," he said.

"We also don't know how much of the cost the general ratepayer will have to bear, and how much the building owners will have to pay up."

Timaru engineer Gary Littler said most of the Stafford St buildings he assessed post-earthquake did not meet the suggested standard.

"There will be a lot which will require an upgrade," Mr Littler said.

"It just depends who will be paying for it."


The Timaru Herald