Quake rulings hard on smaller centres

Councils across South Canterbury, Otago, Southland and the West Coast are again working together on proposed changes to their earthquake-prone buildings policy.

The same councils and organisations made a submission to an earlier Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment consultation last year.

In that submission the Timaru District Council, for the first time, suggested there were 800 earthquake-prone buildings in the district.

The Building (Earthquake-Prone Buildings) Amendment Bill, now being considered by the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, proposes changes to the way property owners assess and strengthen earthquake-prone buildings.

In the new submission, the southern councils emphasised the challenge the proposed changes would have on their communities.

Joint spokesman for the group, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, said while the councils supported improvements to the way earthquake-prone buildings were managed, any solution needed to be based on potential risk and be affordable for communities.

"We remain concerned that the proposed changes will place excessive costs on communities and ratepayers for disproportionately small gains."

Cull's message was reinforced by Waitaki District Mayor Gary Kircher, who said many councils in provincial New Zealand shared the concerns.

Kircher noted issues within the joint submission are likely to include the importance of local decision-making, exemptions and extensions for rural buildings, and potential impacts on smaller communities.

These issues will be considered by individual councils over the next two weeks.

As well as a joint submission from the southern councils, a number of the participating councils are also considering individual submissions to the select committee process, which closes on April 17.

The Timaru Herald