Seismic bill in the millions

Seismic strengthening proposals sparked by the deadly Christchurch earthquakes would cost one Waikato district $69m and threaten to wipe rural towns off the map.

Hauraki District Council mayor John Tregidga made the claims in a three-page submission to the nationwide earthquake-prone building review.

The proposals follow the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission and would require all non-residential and multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings to have a seismic capacity assessment done within five years.

Owners of buildings identified as earthquake-prone would then have up to 10 years to strengthen or demolish these buildings.

The commission estimates up to 25,000 buildingsmay be classified as earthquake-prone.

Mr Tregidga said the changes would have a "major negative impact for rural communities" where many buildings are potentially earthquake-prone.

He wants the Government to "seriously consider" a more localised, risk-based approach to ensure rural towns survive.

A December 2005 report by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences concluded that the Hauraki district is an area of low seismicity and, therefore, of low risk. Rationale Ltd has studied the potential economic impact for the district on behalf of the council. It found the cost of a seismic assessment programme for the estimated 1487 affected buildings is $1.993 million.

That cost would be borne by ratepayers.

Additionally, building owners would have to foot a $69m bill to strengthen the estimated 401 buildings that require assessment., Mr Tregidga said.

"We believe any proposal to address earthquake-prone buildings should be based on risk and the ‘one size fits all approach' should not be implemented on a national basis as is being proposed."

Waikato Times